This report demonstrates that the genes in the murine Hox-2 cluster display spatially and temporally dynamic patterns of expression in the transverse plane of the developing CNS. All of the Hox-2 genes exhibit changing patterns of expression that reflect events during the ontogeny of the CNS. The observed expression correlates with the timing and location of the birth of major classes of neurons in the spinal cord. Therefore, it is suggested that the Hox-2 genes act to confer rostrocaudal positional information on each successive class of newly born neurons. This analysis has also revealed a striking dorsal restriction in the patterns of Hox-2 expression in the spinal cord between 12.5 and 14.5 days of gestation, which does not appear to correlate with any morphological structure. The cellular retinol binding protein (CRBP) shows a complementary ventral staining pattern, suggesting that a number of genes are dorsoventrally restricted during the development of the CNS. The expression of Hox-2 genes has also been compared with the Hox-3.1 gene, which exhibits a markedly different dorsoventral pattern of expression. This suggests that, while genes in the different murine Hox clusters may have similar A-P domains of expression, they are responding to different dorsoventral patterning signals in the developing spinal cord.

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