New paper in Scientific Reports


Non‑collinear Hox gene expression in bivalves and the evolution of morphological novelties in mollusks

Salamanca-Díaz DA, Calcino AD, de Oliveira AL & Wanninger ASci Rep 11, 3575 (2021). Published online 11 February 2021.


Hox genes are key developmental regulators that are involved in establishing morphological features during animal ontogeny. They are commonly expressed along the anterior–posterior axis in a staggered, or collinear, fashion. In mollusks, the repertoire of body plans is widely diverse and current data suggest their involvement during development of landmark morphological traits in Conchifera, one of the two major lineages that comprises those taxa that originated from a uni-shelled ancestor (Monoplacophora, Gastropoda, Cephalopoda, Scaphopoda, Bivalvia). For most clades, and bivalves in particular, data on Hox gene expression throughout ontogeny are scarce. We thus investigated Hox expression during development of the quagga mussel, Dreissena rostriformis, to elucidate to which degree they might contribute to specific phenotypic traits as in other conchiferans. The Hox/ParaHox complement of Mollusca typically comprises 14 genes, 13 of which are present in bivalve genomes including Dreissena. We describe here expression of 9 Hox genes and the ParaHox gene Xlox during Dreissena development. Hox expression in Dreissena is first detected in the gastrula stage with widely overlapping expression domains of most genes. In the trochophore stage, Hox gene expression shifts towards more compact, largely mesodermal domains. Only few of these domains can be assigned to specific developing morphological structures such as Hox1 in the shell field and Xlox in the hindgut. We did not find traces of spatial or temporal staggered expression of Hox genes in Dreissena. Our data support the notion that Hox gene expression has been coopted independently, and to varying degrees, into lineage-specific structures in the respective conchiferan clades. The non-collinear mode of Hox expression in Dreissena might be a result of the low degree of body plan regionalization along the bivalve anterior–posterior axis as exemplified by the lack of key morphological traits such as a distinct head, cephalic tentacles, radula apparatus, and a simplified central nervous system.

Figure 1

From: Non-collinear Hox gene expression in bivalves and the evolution of morphological novelties in mollusks