Chromosome 12: HOX genes of development, Matt Ridley
Interviewee: Matt Ridley.
In the middle of chromosome 12 lies a cluster of genes that tell a developing embryo which end is up! These genes, known as homeobox (HOX) genes serve to guide the development of an embryo from undifferentiated mass into having a definitive head, tail, front and back. The cluster on chromosome 12 is one of four clusters located in the human genome.
(DNAi Location: Genome > Tour > Genome spots > Chromosome 12: master development genes > A chromosome 12 story)
On chromosome 12 there's one of four sets of thirteen genes called HOX genes. These are master genes of development; they lay down the basic body plan of the embryo, they define which is the front and which is the back of the body."+" Now the really stunning and surprising thing about these genes, is that recognizably the same genes exist in the same sets in fruit flies and other organisms. And that means that the common ancestor of human beings and fruit flies, which probably lived more than six hundred million years ago, must have had these genes too. It's a basic mechanism for laying out the body plan of organisms, and it shows that we have a kinship with the rest of the animal kingdom.