Hedgehog Signaling Pathway

The hedgehog signaling pathway transmits information to embryonic cells required for proper development. Different parts of the embryo have different concentrations of hedgehog signaling proteins. The pathway also has roles in the adult. Diseases associated with the malfunction of this pathway include basal cell carcinoma.

The hedgehog signaling pathway is one of the key regulators of animal development and is present in all bilaterians. The pathway takes its name from its polypeptide ligand, an intercellular signaling molecule called Hedgehog (Hh) found in fruit flies of the genus Drosophila. Hh is one of Drosophila's segment polarity gene products, involved in establishing the basis of the fly body plan. The molecule remains important during later stages of embryogenesis and metamorphosis.

Mammals have three hedgehog homologues, DHH, IHH, and SHH which is the best studied. The pathway is equally important during vertebrate embryonic development. In knockout mice lacking components of the pathway, the brain, skeleton, musculature, gastrointestinal tract and lungs fail to develop correctly. Recent studies point to the role of hedgehog signaling in regulating adult stem cells involved in maintenance and regeneration of adult tissues. The pathway has also been implicated in the development of some cancers. Drugs that specifically target hedgehog signaling to fight this disease are being actively developed by a number of pharmaceutical companies.

Read more about Hedgehog Signaling PathwayDiscovery, Annelids, Evolution

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