Analysis of mutants with altered shh activity and posterior digit loss supports a biphasic model for shh function as a morphogen and mitogen



Sonic hedgehog (Shh) controls the number and type of digits formed. Using a conditional genetic approach for timed removal of Shh, we previously proposed a biphasic model of Shh function: a transient patterning phase, during which digit progenitors are specified, and an extended proliferative phase, during which expansion of progenitor pools enables digit formation. Other models favor a close integration of digit patterning and expansion, with sequential promotion to more posterior identity over time, apparently supported by some mutants with selective posterior digit loss. To further test these models, we analyzed the dynamics of Shh activity in several oligodactylous mutants with different types of digit loss. The profile of Shh activity and phenotypic outcome in these mutants supports a biphasic over an integrated temporal model. Eomesodermin expression, as an independent marker of posterior digit identity, confirmed that proper digit 4 specification requires only the transient phase of Shh activity. Developmental Dynamics 240:1303–1310, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.