Intricacies of Hedgehog Signaling Pathways: A Perspective in Tumorigenesis

Exp Cell Res. 2012 Oct 1;318(16):1959-72. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2012.05.015. Epub 2012 May 31.


The hedgehog (HH) signaling pathway is a crucial negotiator of developmental proceedings in the embryo governing a diverse array of processes including cell proliferation, differentiation, and tissue patterning. The overall activity of the pathway is significantly curtailed after embryogenesis as well as in adults, yet it retains many of its functional capacities. However, aberration in HH signaling mediates the initiation, proliferation and continued sustenance of malignancy in different tissues to varying degrees through different mechanisms. In this review, we provide an overview of the role of constitutively active aberrant HH signaling pathway in different types of human cancer and the underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms that drive tumorigenesis in that particular tissue. An insight into the various modes of anomalous HH signaling in different organs will provide a comprehensive knowledge of the pathway in these tissues and open a window for individually tailored, tissue-specific therapeutic interventions. The synergistic cross talking of HH pathway with many other regulatory molecules and developmentally inclined signaling pathways may offer many avenues for pharmacological advances. Understanding the molecular basis of abnormal HH signaling in cancer will provide an opportunity to inhibit the deregulated pathway in many aggressive and therapeutically challenging cancers where promising options are not available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / genetics*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins