The patterning and morphogenesis of multicellular organisms require a complex interplay of inductive signals which control proliferation, growth arrest, and differentiation of different cell types. A number of such signaling molecules have been identified in vertebrates and invertebrates. The molecular dissection of these pathways demonstrated that in vertebrates, mutations or abnormals function of these signaling pathways were often associated with developmental disorders and cancer formation. The Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted proteins provides a perfect example of such signaling proteins. In the following review, we will not discuss in detail the role of Hh as a morphogen, but rather focus on its signal transduction pathway and its role in various human disorders.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.