Digit determination in limb buds is driven by a posteriorizing Sonic hedgehog (Shh) protein gradient; however, the mechanism regulating this is unclear. Here, we propose a diffusion-and-trapping hypothesis for Shh gradient formation based on data from the preaxial polydactyly phenotype of KIF3B motor hypomorphic mice. In the limb buds of these mice, a distal-to-proximal gradient of fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling and a posterior-to-anterior gradient of Shh were disorganized. This phenotype was reproduced by transplanting FGF8b-soaked beads. At the subcellular level, KIF3B transported the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)-like phosphatase Talpid3 to terminate PI3K signaling. High and low PI3K signaling strengths differentially sorted endocytosed Shh toward exosome-like particles and cytonemal punctata, respectively. These results indicate that the Shh-containing particles undergo either the diffusional movement in the periphery or cytonemal trapping in the center and form a spatial gradient along the periphery of developing limb buds.
Keywords: FGF signaling; Kinesin; PI3K signaling; Shh gradient; Sonic hedgehog; limb bud morphogenesis; morphogen gradient; polydactyly.
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