Hedgehog signaling, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and miRNA (review)

Int J Mol Med. 2008 Sep;22(3):271-5.


SHH, IHH, and DHH are lipid-modified secreted proteins binding to Patched receptors, and CDON, BOC or GAS1 co-receptors. In the absence of Hedgehog signaling, GLI1 is transcriptionally repressed, GLI2 is phosphorylated by GSK3 and CK1 for the FBXW11 (betaTRCP2)-mediated degradation, and GLI3 is processed to a cleaved repressor. In the presence of Hedgehog signaling, Smoothened is relieved from Patched-mediated suppression due to the Hedgehog-dependent internalization of Patched, which leads to MAP3K10 (MST) activation and SUFU inactivation for the stabilization and nuclear accumulation of GLI family members. GLI activators then upregulate CCND1, CCND2 for cell cycle acceleration, FOXA2, FOXC2, FOXE1, FOXF1, FOXL1, FOXP3, POU3F1, RUNX2, SOX13, TBX2 for cell fate determination, JAG2, INHBC, and INHBE for stem cell signaling regulation. Hedgehog signals also upregulate SFRP1 in mesenchymal cells for WNT signaling regulation. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during embryogenesis, adult tissue homeostasis and carcinogenesis is characterized by class switch from E-cadherin to N-cadherin. SNAI1 (Snail), SNAI2 (Slug), SNAI3, ZEB1, ZEB2 (SIP1), KLF8, TWIST1, and TWIST2 are EMT regulators repressing CDH1 gene encoding E-cadherin. Hedgehog signals induce JAG2 upregulation for Notch-CSL-mediated SNAI1 upregulation, and also induce TGFbeta1 secretion for ZEB1 and ZEB2 upregulation via TGFbeta receptor and NF-kappaB. TGFbeta-mediated downregulation of miR-141, miR-200a, miR-200b, miR-200c, miR-205, and miR-429 results in upregulation of ZEB1 and ZEB2 proteins. Hedgehog signaling activation indirectly leads to EMT through FGF, Notch, TGFbeta signaling cascades, and miRNA regulatory networks. miRNAs targeted to stem cell signaling components or EMT regulators are potent drug targets; however, off-target effects should be strictly controlled before clinical application of synthetic miRNA. Peptide mimetic and RNA aptamer could also be utilized as Hedgehog signaling inhibitors or EMT suppressors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Mesoderm / metabolism*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • MicroRNAs