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Gene Switches

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Fruit fly

One important class of transcription factors is encoded by the so-called homeotic, or Hox, genes. Found in all animals, Hox genes act to "regionalize" the body along the embryo's anterior-to-posterior (head-to-tail) axis. In a fruit fly, for example, Hox genes lay out the various main body segments—the head, thorax, and abdomen. Here we see a representation of a fruit fly embryo viewed from the side, with its anterior end to the left and with various Hox genes shown in different colors. Each Hox gene, such as the blue Ultrabithorax or Ubx gene, is expressed in different areas, or domains, along the anterior-to-posterior axis. The arced, colored bars give an idea of the full range, or domain, of each gene's expression.


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