Homeobox genes play a key role in specifying the segmented body plan of Drosophila, and recent work suggests that at least several homeobox genes may play a regulatory role during vertebrate limb morphogenesis. We have used degenerate oligonucleotide primers from highly conserved domains in the homeobox motif to amplify homeobox gene segments from chick embryo limb bud cDNAs using the polymerase chain reaction. Expression of a large number of homeobox genes (at least 17) is detected using this approach. One of these genes contains a novel homeobox loosely related to the Drosophila Abdominal B class, and was further analyzed by determining its complete coding sequence and evaluating its expression during embryogenesis by in situ hybridization. Based on sequence and expression patterns, we have designated this gene as Ghox 4.7 and believe that it is the chick homologue of the murine Hox 4.7 gene (formerly Hox 5.6). Ghox 4.7 is expressed primarily in limb buds during development and shows a striking spatial restriction to the posterior zone of the limb bud, suggesting a role in specifying anterior-posterior pattern formation. In chick, this gene also displays differences in expression between wing and leg buds, raising the possibility that it may participate in specifying limb-type identity.

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