Cnox-2 is a HOM/HOX homeobox gene that we have identified in the simple metazoan Hydra vulgaris (Cnidaria: Hydrozoa). Cnox-2 is most closely related to anterior members of the Antennapedia gene complex from Drosophila, with the greatest similarity to Deformed. The Cnox-2 protein is expressed in the epithelial cells of adult hydra polyps in a region-specific pattern along the body axis, at a low level in the head and at a high level in the body column and the foot. The expression pattern of Cnox-2 is consistent with a role in axial pattern formation. Alteration of hydra axial patterning by treatment with diacylglycerol (DAG) results in an increase of head activation down the body column and in a coordinate reduction of Cnox-2 expression in epithelial cells in ‘head-like’ regions. These results suggest that Cnox-2 expression is negatively regulated by a signaling pathway acting through protein kinase C (PKC), and that the varying levels of expression of Cnox-2 along the body axis have the potential to result in differential gene expression which is important for hydra pattern formation.

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