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Keywords:

  • Hedgehog;
  • Gli;
  • brain;
  • growth;
  • stem cell;
  • cancer;
  • medulloblastoma;
  • glioma;
  • cyclopamine;
  • pattern

Abstract

The Hedgehog–Gli (Hh–Gli) signaling pathway is essential for numerous events during the development of many animal cell types and organs. In particular, it controls neural cell precursor proliferation in dorsal brain structures and regulates the number of neural stem cells in distinct embryonic, perinatal, and adult niches, such as the developing neocortex, the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricle of the forebrain, and the hippocampus. We have proposed that Hh–Gli signaling regulates dorsal brain growth during ontogeny and that its differential regulation underlays evolutionary change in the morphology (size and shape) of dorsal brain structures. It is also critically involved in sporadic brain tumorigenesis — as well as several other human cancers — suggesting that tumors derive from stem cells or progenitors maintaining an inappropriate active Hh–Gli pathway. Importantly, we and others have demonstrated that human sporadic tumors from the brain and other organs require sustained HH–GLI signaling for sustained growth and survival. Modulating HH–GLI signaling thus represents a novel rational avenue to treat, on one hand, brain degeneration and injury by inducing controlled HH–GLI-mediated regeneration and growth, and on the other hand, to combat cancer by blocking its abnormal activity in tumor cells. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 64: 476–490, 2005