A chick gene homologous to the Drosophila homeobox gene labial has been cloned and sequenced. Regions of additional sequence identity outside of the homeobox reveal a close relationship to the mouse gene Hox 1.6. Northern blot analysis demonstrates that Ghox-lab and Hox 1.6 transcripts are both present at high levels during early stages of chick and mouse development, with a subsequent decline in abundance to very low levels by the time limb mesenchyme begins to differentiate. In situ hybridization analysis of chick embryos shows intense expression of Ghox-lab mRNA by Hamburger and Hamilton stage 4 (avian ‘mid gastrula’) and by stage 6 (pre-somitic neural plate) with expression decreasing shortly thereafter. The pattern of Ghox-lab RNA expression in these early embryos divides the embryo into an anterior and a posterior compartment. At stage 6, considerable signal is observed in the posterior two thirds of the embryo, while none is detected in the anterior third which is fated to become the head. This pattern is purely regional in nature, and does not follow boundaries defined by known tissue types. In situ hybridization of Hox 1.6 probes to mouse embryos of day 7.5 or 8.0 indicate that the Hox 1.6 transcript has a temporal and spatial distribution very similar to that of Ghox-lab in the chick embryo.

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