This paper reports the cloning of the fourth major murine homeogene complex, HOX-5. The partial characterization of this gene cluster revealed the presence of two novel genes (Hox-5.2, Hox-5.3) located at the 5' extremity of this complex. In situ hybridization experiments showed that these two genes are transcribed in very posterior domains during embryonic and foetal development. We also show that Hox-1.6, the gene located at the 3' most position in the HOX-1 complex, has a very anterior expression boundary during early development. These results clearly support the recently proposed hypothesis that the expression of murine Antp-like homeobox-containing genes along the antero-posterior developing body axis follows a positional hierarchy which reflects their respective physical positions within the HOX clusters, similar to that which is found for the Drosophila homeotic genes. Such a structural and functional organization is likely conserved in most vertebrates. Moreover, on the basis of sequence comparisons, we propose that the ordering of homeobox-containing genes within clusters has been conserved between Drosophila and the house mouse. Thus, very different body plans might be achieved, both in insects and vertebrates, by evolutionarily conserved gene networks possibly displaying similar regulatory interactions.