Sonic hedgehog expression in the postnatal brain

Biol Open. 2019 Mar 26;8(3):bio040592. doi: 10.1242/bio.040592.


Beyond its role in patterning the neural tube during embryogenesis, additional functions of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) in post-embryonic and mature brains have been coming into focus. However, the question of the abundance of endogenous Shh - the ligand of the signaling pathway - and its changes over time in post-embryonic and mature brains are less well understood. Here we find that while the amounts of Shh transcript and protein in rat brains are nearly undetectable at birth, they increase continuously during postnatal development and remain at readily detectable levels in young adults. This developmental age-associated increase in Shh levels is also seen in hippocampal neurons grown in culture, in which very young neurons produce minimal amounts of Shh protein but, as neurons grow and form synapses, the amounts of Shh increase significantly. Using immunolabeling with antibodies to different residues of Shh, we observed that the N-terminal fragment and the C-terminal fragment of Shh are present in hippocampal neurons, and that these two Shh forms co-exist in most compartments of the neuron. Our findings provide a better understanding of Shh expression in the brain, laying the groundwork for further comprehending the biogenesis of Shh protein in the young and mature brain and neurons.

Keywords: Endogenous; Hippocampus; Neuron; Sonic hedgehog.