Homeotic genes are genes which regulate the development of anatomical structures in various organisms such as insects, mammals, and plants. This regulation is done via the programming of various transcription factors by the homeotic genes, and these factors affect genes through regulatory genetic pathways. They include many of the Hox and ParaHox genes which are important for segmentation, They also include the MADS-box-containing genes involved the ABC model of flower development. Not all homeotic genes are Hox genes; the MADS- box genes are homeotic but not Hox genes. Thus, the Hox genes are a proper subset of homeotic genes.
Mutations in the homeotic genes can occur, leading to what are known as homeotic mutants. These mutants display ectopic placement of body parts (such as antennae growing at the posterior of the fly instead of at the head) or abnormal expression of the homeotic gene. Many times, mutation that lead to these ectopic placements are lethal to the organism.
One of the most commonly studied model organisms in regards to homeotic genes is the Drosophila, specifically Drosophila melanogaster. The homeotic genes of this organism occur in either the Antennapedia complex (ANT-C) or the Bithorax complex (BX-C). During development (starting at the blastoderm stage of the embryo), these genes are constantly expressed in order give the different segments of the fly body specific structures and roles. For Drosophila, these genes can be analyzed using the Flybase database
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