Hox genes play a critical role in morphogenesis of the early embryo along the anteroposterior axis. In mammals, 39 Hox genes with extensive homology are organized into 13 paralogous groups, forming four clusters on four separate chromosomes. The genes within each cluster are arranged in a 3' to 5' direction and expressed in a temporally and spatially coordinated manner along the anteroposterior axis in the vertebrae, limbs and viscera, including the gastrointestinal tract, but little is known about their spatial expression in the adult gastrointestinal tract. We used the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) intercalater method with SYBR Green to quantify human Hox gene expression in the adult gastrointestinal tract tissue: esophagus, stomach, duodenum, jejunum, ileum, ileocecum, cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and rectum. Hox gene expression was normalized to glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate-dehydrogenase (GAPDH) gene expression. The spatial expression pattern was analyzed by the multivariate method. The expression level of all 39 Hox genes could be measured in a reproducible manner. Genes with higher expression in the foregut-derived segments tended to have lower expression in hindgut-derived segments, whereas those with low expression in the former tended to have higher in the latter. Principal components analysis and permax analysis revealed a position-specific expression pattern of Hox genes along the anteroposterior axis of the adult gastrointestinal tract. The pattern recapitulates the expression pattern in the embryonic gastrointestinal tract. We suggest that Hox genes may play a pivotal role in the position-specific regenerative process of intestinal epithelial cells.
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