Inversion-induced disruption of the Hoxd cluster leads to the partition of regulatory landscapes.
The developmental regulation of vertebrate Hox gene transcription relies on the interplay between local and long-range controls. To study this complex genomic organization, we designed a strategy combining meiotic and targeted recombinations to induce large chromosomal rearrangements in vivo without manipulating embryonic stem cells. With this simple approach (called STRING), we engineered a large 7-cM inversion, which split the Hoxd cluster into two independent pieces. Expression analyses showed a partition of global enhancers, allowing for their precise topographic allocation on either side of the cluster. Such a functional organization probably contributed to keeping these genes clustered in the course of vertebrate evolution. This approach can be used to study the relationship between genome architecture and gene expression, such as the effects of genome rearrangements in human diseases or during evolution.