Homeobox genes encode transcription factors notable for their ability to regulate embryogenesis. Here, we report the discovery of a cluster of 12 related homeobox genes on the X chromosome expressed in male and female reproductive tissues in adult mice. These reproductive homeobox on the X chromosome (Rhox) genes are expressed in a cell type-specific manner; several are hormonally regulated, and their expression pattern during postnatal testis development corresponds to their chromosomal position. Most of the Rhox genes are expressed in Sertoli cells, the nurse cells in direct contact with developing male germ cells, suggesting that they regulate the expression of somatic-cell gene products critical for germ cell development. In support of this, targeted disruption of Rhox5 increased male germ cell apoptosis and reduced sperm production, sperm motility, and fertility. Identification of this family of homeobox genes provides an opportunity to study colinear gene regulation and the transcriptional control of reproduction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)