Sonic hedgehog is a protein that in humans is encoded by the SHH (sonic hedgehog) gene.
Sonic hedgehog is one of three proteins in the mammalian signaling pathway family called hedgehog, the others being desert hedgehog (DHH) and Indian hedgehog (IHH). SHH is the best studied ligand of the hedgehog signaling pathway. It plays a key role in regulating vertebrate organogenesis, such as in the growth of digits on limbs and organization of the brain. Sonic hedgehog is the best established example of a morphogen as defined by Lewis Wolpert's French flag model—a molecule that diffuses to form a concentration gradient and has different effects on the cells of the developing embryo depending on its concentration. SHH remains important in the adult. It controls cell division of adult stem cells and has been implicated in development of some cancers.
The Hedgehog signaling pathway is a signaling pathway that transmits information to embryonic cells required for proper development. Different parts of the embryo have different concentrations of hedgehog signaling proteins. The pathway also has roles in the adult. Diseases associated with the malfunction of this pathway include basal cell carcinoma.
The hedgehog gene (hh) was first identified in the fruit-fly Drosophila melanogaster in the classic Heidelberg screens of Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus, as published in 1980. These screens, which led to them winning the Nobel Prize in 1995 along with developmental geneticist Edward B. Lewis, identified genes that control the segmentation pattern of the Drosophila embryos. The hh loss of function mutant phenotype causes the embryos to be covered with denticles (small pointy projections), resembling a hedgehog.
Drosophila melanogaster is a species of Fly (the taxonomic order Diptera) in the family Drosophilidae. The species is known generally as the common fruit fly or vinegar fly. Starting with Charles W. Woodworth's proposal of the use of this species as a model organism, D. melanogaster continues to be widely used for biological research in studies of genetics, physiology, microbial pathogenesis and life history evolution. It is typically used because it is an animal species that is easy to care for, breeds quickly, and lays many eggs.
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