Mammalian-specific ectodermal enhancers control the expression of Hoxc genes in developing nails and hair folliclesMammalian-specific ectodermal enhancers control the expression of Hoxc genes in developing nails and hair folliclesMarc Fernandez-Guerrero, Nayuta Yakushiji-Kaminatsui, Lucille Lopez-Delisle, Sofía Zdral, Fabrice Darbellay, Rocío Perez-Gomez, Christopher Chase Bolt, Manuel A. Sanchez-Martin, Denis Duboule, Maria A. Ros2020-11-15T23:00:00Z<h3>​Abstract<br></h3><p><br></p><div>Vertebrate Hox genes are key players in the establishment of structures during the development of the main body axis. Subsequently, they play important roles either in organizing secondary axial structures such as the appendages, or during homeostasis in postnatal stages and adulthood. Here we set up to analyze their elusive function in the ectodermal compartment, using the mouse limb bud as a model. We report that the HoxC gene cluster was globally co-opted to be transcribed in the distal limb ectoderm, where it is activated following the rule of temporal colinearity. These ectodermal cells subsequently produce various keratinized organs such as nails or claws. Accordingly, deletion of the HoxC cluster led to mice lacking nails (anonychia) and also hairs (alopecia), a condition stronger than the previously reported loss of function of Hoxc13, which is the causative gene of the ectodermal dysplasia 9 (ECTD9) in human patients. We further identified two ectodermal, mammalian-specific enhancers located upstream of the HoxC gene cluster, which act synergistically to regulate Hoxc gene expression in the hair and nail ectodermal organs. Deletion of these regulatory elements alone or in combination revealed a strong quantitative component in the regulation of Hoxc genes in the ectoderm, suggesting that these two enhancers may have evolved along with mammals to provide the level of HOXC proteins necessary for the full development of hairs and nails.<br></div><div><a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/11/13/2011078117.long">Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A</a>. 2020 Nov 16;202011078. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2011078117. Online ahead of print. <br></div><p><br></p>334