The Sonic hedgehog gradient in the developing limb

Cheryll Tickle, Heather Barker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (SciVal)


A gradient of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) plays a major role in specifying the antero-posterior pattern of structures that develop in the distal part of the vertebrate limb, in particular, the antero-posterior pattern of the digits. Classical embryological experiments identified the polarizing region (or zone of polarizing activity, ZPA), a signaling region at the posterior margin of the early chick wing bud and, consistent with a model in which production of a diffusible morphogen specifies antero-posterior positional information, polarizing region signaling was shown to be dose dependent and long range. It is now well established that the vertebrate hedgehog gene, Sonic hedgehog (Shh), which encodes a secreted proteis expressed in the polarizing region of the chick wing and that Shh signaling has the same characteristics as polarizing region signaling. Shh expression at the posterior of the early limb bud and the mechanism of Shh signal transduction are conserved among vertebrates including mammals. However, it is unlikely that a simple Shh gradient is responsible for digit pattern formation in mammalian limbs and there is still little understanding of how positional information specified by Shh signaling is encoded and translated into digit anatomy. Alterations in Shh signaling underlie some congenital limb abnormalities and also changes in timing and extent of Shh signaling appear to be related to the evolution of morphological diversity of vertebrate limbs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-290
Number of pages16
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Developmental Biology
Issue number2
Early online date25 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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