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Hox Genes Regulate Digit Patterning by Controlling the Wavelength of a Turing-Type Mechanism

Science  14 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6113, pp. 1476-1480
DOI: 10.1126/science.1226804

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Abstract

The formation of repetitive structures (such as stripes) in nature is often consistent with a reaction-diffusion mechanism, or Turing model, of self-organizing systems. We used mouse genetics to analyze how digit patterning (an iterative digit/nondigit pattern) is generated. We showed that the progressive reduction in Hoxa13 and Hoxd11-Hoxd13 genes (hereafter referred to as distal Hox genes) from the Gli3-null background results in progressively more severe polydactyly, displaying thinner and densely packed digits. Combined with computer modeling, our results argue for a Turing-type mechanism underlying digit patterning, in which the dose of distal Hox genes modulates the digit period or wavelength. The phenotypic similarity with fish-fin endoskeleton patterns suggests that the pentadactyl state has been achieved through modification of an ancestral Turing-type mechanism.

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