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Cell. 1996 Jul 12;86(1):21-34.

Hedgehog patterning activity: role of a lipophilic modification mediated by the carboxy-terminal autoprocessing domain.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Autocatalytic processing mediated by the carboxyterminal domain of the hedgehog (hh) protein precursor (Hh) generates an amino-terminal product that accounts for all known signaling activity. The role of autoprocessing biogenesis of the hh signal has been unclear, since a truncated unprocessed protein lacking all carboxy-terminal domain sequences retains signaling activity. Here, we present evidence that the autoprocessing reaction proceeds via an internal thioester intermediate and results in a covalent modification that increases the hydrophobic character of the signaling domain and influences its spatial and subcellular distribution. We demonstrate that truncated unprocessed amino-terminal protein causes embryonic mispatterning, even when expression is localized to cells that normally express Hh, thus suggesting a role for autoprocessing in spatial regulation of hh signaling. This type of processing also appears to operate in the biogenesis of other novel secreted proteins.

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