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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2006 Aug;16(4):426-32. Epub 2006 Jun 23.

Mechanistic insight into how Shh patterns the vertebrate limb.

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Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

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  • Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2006 Dec;16(6):645.


The hands and feet of a newborn baby are a beautiful reminder of the complexity of embryonic patterning. Classical studies on how these structures form have led to a theoretical framework for understanding, in general, how discrete groups of cells can instruct differential fates across a wider field through the action of long-range signals. The discovery just more than a decade ago that localized expression of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) differentially patterns structures across the limb field, resulting in digits with unique characteristics, provided a starting point for readdressing these models at a molecular level. Current research has revealed unexpected complexity in how a gradient of Shh activity is both established and received, prompting re-evaluation of the nature of patterning mechanisms within the limb.

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