The hedgehog (hh) gene encoding a secreted protein was originally identified in Drosophila as a segment polarity gene. The vertebrate homologues of Hh comprise several proteins including sonic hedgehog (Shh), Indian hedgehog (Ihh), and Desert hedgehog (Dhh) (1). Hedgehog proteins are important signaling molecules during embryonic development and are highly conserved within and across species (1). Mouse and human Ihh share 100% amino acid identity in the signaling domain, while mouse Ihh and Shh share 90% amino acid identity in the Nterminal signaling domain. Ihh mRNA expression is detected in fetal lung, gut, stomach, liver, kidney, pancreas and strongly in cartilage in growth regions of the developing bone (2, 3). Ihh, along with parathyroid hormone related protein, regulate the rate of chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation (4). Ihh is also involved in yolk sac vasculogenesis, playing an important role in differentiation of epiblast cells into endothelial and red blood cells (5).
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