Overlap in signaling between Smoothened and the α subunit of the heterotrimeric G protein G13

PLoS One. 2018 May 15;13(5):e0197442. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197442. eCollection 2018.


The Hedgehog family of morphogens has long been known to utilize, through the 7-transmembrane protein Smoothened (Smo), the heterotrimeric G protein Gi in both canonical and noncanonical forms of signaling. Other G proteins, while not specifically utilized by Smo, may nonetheless provide access to some of the events controlled by it. We reported several years ago that the G protein G13 activates one or more forms of the Gli family of transcription factors. While the Gli transcription factors are well known targets for Smo, the uncertain mechanism of activation by G13 and the identity of the targeted Gli(s) limited predictions as to the extent to which G13 might mimic Smo's actions. We evaluate here the potential for overlap in G13 and Smo signaling using C3H10T1/2 and 3T3-L1 cells as models of osteogenesis and adipogenesis, respectively. We find in C3H10T1/2 cells that a constitutively active form of Gα13 (Gα13QL) increases Gli1 mRNA, as does a constitutively active form of Smo (SmoA1). We find as well that Gα13QL induces alkaline phosphatase activity, a marker of osteogenesis, albeit the induction is far less substantial than that achieved by SmoA1. In 3T3-L1 cells both Gα13QL and SmoA1 markedly suppress adipogenic differentiation as determined by triglyceride accumulation. RNA sequencing reveals that Gα13QL and SmoA1 regulate many of the same genes but that quantitative and qualitative differences exist. Differences also exist, we find, between SmoA1 and purmorphamine, an agonist for Smo. Therefore, while comparisons of constitutively active proteins are informative, extrapolations to the setting of agonists require care.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipogenesis / drug effects
  • Adipogenesis / genetics
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / genetics
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, G12-G13 / genetics
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, G12-G13 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Purines / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Morpholines
  • Purines
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • GTP-Binding Protein alpha Subunits, G12-G13
  • purmorphamine