The Role of Hox in Pisiform and Calcaneus Growth Plate Formation and the Nature of the Zeugopod/Autopod Boundary

Philip L. Reno, Kelsey M. Kjosness, Jasmine E. Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The mesopodium forms at the boundary between the zeugopod and autopod and is composed of short nodular bones that typically lack growth plates. Hoxa11 and Hoxa13 are expressed in mutually exclusive proximal-distal domains that demarcate the zeugopod/autopod boundary. Similarly, Hoxd genes are deployed in two distinct phases during limb development. The early phase corresponds to proximal segments including the zeugopod, and a late phase occurs in the digits. This arrangement produces a gap of low Hoxd expression that is traditionally viewed to correspond to the mesopodium. In contrast to the other mesopodials, the mammalian pisiform and calcaneus form true growth plates. We show that these bones, along with other proximal mesopodials, develop within the Hoxa11 and Hoxd11 expression domains. We also observe that the pisiform growth plate becomes disorganized with Hoxa11 or Hoxd11 loss of function, indicating a direct role for Hox11 in its development. Hoxa13 loss of function has minimal effect on the pisiform and proximal calcaneus as these bones still form secondary centers and undergo longitudinal growth. Consideration of the phenotypes resulting from hypodactyly (Hd) and synpolydactyly homolog (spdh) mutations, which result from altered HOXA13 and HOXD13 proteins, respectively, confirms that Hox13 plays a limited role in the development of the pisiform and calcaneus and suggests that they lie within the early phase of Hox expression. Therefore, with respect to patterns of ossification and gene expression, these bones share much more in common with the zeugopod than the autopod. Such an interpretation fits with the timing of autopod origins during tetrapod evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)303-321
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Developmental Biology


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