Definition of critical periods for Hedgehog pathway antagonist-induced holoprosencephaly, cleft lip, and cleft palate

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 20;10(3):e0120517. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120517. eCollection 2015.


The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway mediates multiple spatiotemporally-specific aspects of brain and face development. Genetic and chemical disruptions of the pathway are known to result in an array of structural malformations, including holoprosencephaly (HPE), clefts of the lip with or without cleft palate (CL/P), and clefts of the secondary palate only (CPO). Here, we examined patterns of dysmorphology caused by acute, stage-specific Hh signaling inhibition. Timed-pregnant wildtype C57BL/6J mice were administered a single dose of the potent pathway antagonist vismodegib at discrete time points between gestational day (GD) 7.0 and 10.0, an interval approximately corresponding to the 15th to 24th days of human gestation. The resultant pattern of facial and brain dysmorphology was dependent upon stage of exposure. Insult between GD7.0 and GD8.25 resulted in HPE, with peak incidence following exposure at GD7.5. Unilateral clefts of the lip extending into the primary palate were also observed, with peak incidence following exposure at GD8.875. Insult between GD9.0 and GD10.0 resulted in CPO and forelimb abnormalities. We have previously demonstrated that Hh antagonist-induced cleft lip results from deficiency of the medial nasal process and show here that CPO is associated with reduced growth of the maxillary-derived palatal shelves. By defining the critical periods for the induction of HPE, CL/P, and CPO with fine temporal resolution, these results provide a mechanism by which Hh pathway disruption can result in "non-syndromic" orofacial clefting, or HPE with or without co-occurring clefts. This study also establishes a novel and tractable mouse model of human craniofacial malformations using a single dose of a commercially available and pathway-specific drug.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anilides / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Cleft Lip / chemically induced
  • Cleft Lip / metabolism
  • Cleft Lip / pathology*
  • Cleft Palate / chemically induced
  • Cleft Palate / metabolism
  • Cleft Palate / pathology*
  • Face / abnormalities
  • Female
  • Hedgehog Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism
  • Holoprosencephaly / chemically induced
  • Holoprosencephaly / metabolism
  • Holoprosencephaly / pathology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Morphogenesis / drug effects
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyridines / adverse effects*
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects


  • Anilides
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • HhAntag691
  • Pyridines