A Xenopus laevis homeobox gene, Xhox3, has been isolated using the homeobox of the Drosophila pair-rule gene even skipped as a hybridization probe. Xhox3 is first transcribed at the midblastula transition; RNA levels peak at the early neurula stage and decrease thereafter. During the early period of Xhox3 expression, the gastrula and neurula stages, transcripts are found in a graded fashion along the anteroposterior (A-P) axis in the mesoderm and are most concentrated at the posterior pole. In the late period of expression, the tailbud and tadpole stage, transcripts are concentrated at the two ends of the embryo: in the anterior nervous system and posterior tail bud. Analysis of Xhox3 expression in experimentally perturbed embryos shows that different A-P fates in the mesoderm are correlated with different levels of Xhox3 expression. Based on these results and those with other frog homeobox genes, we propose a role for homeobox genes in the patterning of the A-P embryonic axis.

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