Résumé : A survey across the most basal animal phylum, the Porifera, for the presence of homeobox-containing genes led to the isolation of 24 partial or complete homeobox sequences from 21 sponge species distributed in 15 families and 6 orders of Demospongiae. All the new sequences shared a high identity/similarity with EmH-3 (Ephydatia muelleri), a non-Hox gene from the Antp class. The Demox sequences, EmH-3, and related homeodomains formed a well-supported clade with no true affinity with any known bilaterian family, including the Tlx/Hox11 family, suggesting that the EmH-3 family of genes, comprising 31 members, represents a novel family of non-Hox genes, called the Demox family, widespread among Demospongiae. The presence of the Tlx/Hox11 specific signature in the Demox family and common regulatory elements suggested that the Demox and Tlx/Hox11 families are closely related. In the phylogenetic analyses, freshwater Haplosclerida appeared as monophyletic, and Haplosclerida and Halichondrida as polyphyletic, with a clade comprising Agelas species and Axinella corrugata. As for their expression, high levels of Demox transcripts were found in adult tissues. Our data add to the number of published poriferan homeobox sequences and provide independent confirmation of the current Demospongiae phylogenies. © Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006.