Paracrine Hedgehog signaling in stomach and intestine: new roles for hedgehog in gastrointestinal patterning

Gastroenterology. 2009 Aug;137(2):618-28. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 13.


Background & aims: Hedgehog signaling is critical in gastrointestinal patterning. Mice deficient in Hedgehog signaling exhibit abnormalities that mirror deformities seen in the human VACTERL (vertebral, anal, cardiac, tracheal, esophageal, renal, limb) association. However, the direction of Hedgehog signal flow is controversial and the cellular targets of Hedgehog signaling change with time during development. We profiled cellular Hedgehog response patterns from embryonic day 10.5 (E10.5) to adult in murine antrum, pyloric region, small intestine, and colon.

Methods: Hedgehog signaling was profiled using Hedgehog pathway reporter mice and in situ hybridization. Cellular targets were identified by immunostaining. Ihh-overexpressing transgenic animals were generated and analyzed.

Results: Hedgehog signaling is strictly paracrine from antrum to colon throughout embryonic and adult life. Novel findings include the following: mesothelial cells of the serosa transduce Hedgehog signals in fetal life; the hindgut epithelium expresses Ptch but not Gli1 at E10.5; the 2 layers of the muscularis externa respond differently to Hedgehog signals; organogenesis of the pyloric sphincter is associated with robust Hedgehog signaling; dramatically different Hedgehog responses characterize stomach and intestine at E16; and after birth, the muscularis mucosa and villus smooth muscle consist primarily of Hedgehog-responsive cells and Hh levels actively modulate villus core smooth muscle.

Conclusions: These studies reveal a previously unrecognized association of paracrine Hedgehog signaling with several gastrointestinal patterning events involving the serosa, pylorus, and villus smooth muscle. The results may have implications for several human anomalies and could potentially expand the spectrum of the human VACTERL association.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / genetics*
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Gastric Mucosa / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / embryology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / growth & development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestine, Small / embryology
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Intestine, Small / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Animal
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*
  • Stomach / embryology
  • Stomach / pathology


  • Hedgehog Proteins