Relationship between dose, distance and time in Sonic Hedgehog-mediated regulation of anteroposterior polarity in the chick limb

Y Yang, G Drossopoulou, P T Chuang, D Duprez, E Marti, D Bumcrot, Neil Vargesson, Jonathan D Clarke, L Niswander, A McMahon, C Tickle

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288 Citations (Scopus)


Anteroposterior polarity in the vertebrate limb is thought to be regulated in response to signals derived from a specialized region of distal posterior mesenchyme, the zone of polarizing activity. Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) is expressed in the zone of polarizing activity and appears to mediate the action of the zone of polarizing activity. Here we have manipulated Shh signal in the limb to assess whether it acts as a long-range signal to directly pattern all the digits. Firstly, we demonstrate that alterations in digit development are dependent upon the dose of Shh applied. DiI-labeling experiments indicate that cells giving rise to the extra digits lie within a 300 microm radius of a Shh bead and that the most posterior digits come from cells that lie very close to the bead. A response to Shh involves a 12-16 hour period in which no irreversible changes in digit pattern occur. Increasing the time of exposure to Shh leads to specification of additional digits, firstly digit 2, then 3, then 4. Cell marking experiments demonstrate that cells giving rise to posterior digits are first specified as anterior digits and later adopt a more posterior character. To monitor the direct range of Shh signalling, we developed sensitive assays for localizing Shh by attaching alkaline phosphatase to Shh and introducing cells expressing these forms into the limb bud. These experiments demonstrate that long-range diffusion across the anteroposterior axis of the limb is possible. However, despite a dramatic difference in their diffusibility in the limb mesenchyme, the two forms of alkaline phosphatase-tagged Shh proteins share similar polarizing activity. Moreover, Shh-N (aminoterminal peptide of Shh)-coated beads and Shh-expressing cells also exhibit similar patterning activity despite a significant difference in the diffusibility of Shh from these two sources. Finally, we demonstrate that when Shh-N is attached to an integral membrane protein, cells transfected with this anchored signal also induce mirror-image pattern duplications in a dose-dependent fashion similar to the zone of polarizing activity itself. These data suggest that it is unlikely that Shh itself signals digit formation at a distance. Beads soaked in Shh-N do not induce Shh in anterior limb mesenchyme ruling out direct propagation of a Shh signal. However, Shh induces dose-dependent expression of Bmp genes in anterior mesenchyme at the start of the promotion phase. Taken together, these results argue that the dose-dependent effects of Shh in the regulation of anteroposterior pattern in the limb may be mediated by some other signal(s). BMPs are plausible candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4393-4404
Number of pages12
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1997


  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD4
  • Body Patterning
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Membrane
  • Chick Embryo
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Signal Transduction
  • Trans-Activators
  • Wing


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