Erickson, Robert P. Department of Pediatrics, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
Last reviewed:January 2021
- Maternal inheritance
- Development control genes
- HOX genes
- Other conserved genes
- Growth factors
- Developmental studies
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The branch of genetics that studies how genes control embryonic development. Advances in the field of developmental genetics have emphasized the degree of conservation throughout evolution of the genes (basic units in inheritance consisting of DNA) that control development (see illustration). Thus, genes that are important in such distant organisms as insects [with an exoskeleton, highly segmented organization, and ventral nervous cord (Drosophila, the fruit fly, is the type experimental species)] and vertebrates [with their endoskeleton, lack of markedly segmented organization, and dorsal nervous system (the mouse is the type experimental species)] share a number of highly homologous (similar) genes that control early development. These genes are also found, and sometimes have similar roles, in descendant worms of the common ancestral annelid (the most frequently studied descendant is a nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans), and many genes are also shared with plants, where their function is usually less conserved. See also: Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); Developmental biology; Embryology; Gene; Genetics
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