Wnt and Hedgehog: Secretion of Lipid-Modified Morphogens

Trends Cell Biol. 2018 Feb;28(2):157-170. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2017.10.003. Epub 2017 Nov 10.


Morphogens are signaling molecules produced by a localized source, specifying cell fate in a graded manner. The source secretes morphogens into the extracellular milieu to activate various target genes in an autocrine or paracrine manner. Here we describe various secreted forms of two canonical morphogens, the lipid-anchored Hedgehog (Hh) and Wnts, indicating the involvement of multiple carriers in the transport of these morphogens. These different extracellular secreted forms are likely to have distinct functions. Here we evaluate newly identified mechanisms that morphogens use to traverse the required distance to activate discrete paracrine signaling.

Keywords: Hh; Wg; Wnt; cancer; exosomes; lipoprotein; tissue patterning; vesicles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology*
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Wnt Proteins