• Sonic hedgehog;
  • thyroid hormone;
  • digestive tract;
  • remodeling;
  • Xenopus laevis

Abstract Sonic hedgehog (Shh) was isolated from the Xenopus laevis intestine as an early thyroid hormone (TH) response gene. To investigate possible roles of TH-upregulated expression of Shh during metamorphosis, we raised a polyclonal antibody against Xenopus Shh and immunohistochemically examined the relationship between Shh expression and the larval-to-adult intestinal remodeling at the cellular level. Our results indicate that the epithelial-specific expression of Shh in the intestine spatiotemporally correlates well with active proliferation and/or initial differentiation of the secondary (adult) epithelial primordia that originate from stem cells, but not with apoptosis of the primary (larval) epithelium. Given the similar transformations of the stomach during metamorphosis, we also analyzed Shh expression in this organ and found similar correlations in the stomach, although the position of the adult epithelial primordia and their final differentiation in the stomach are different from those in the intestine. Furthermore, we show here that Shh expression is organ-autonomously induced by TH and its correlation with the adult epithelial development is reproduced in vitro in both the intestine and the stomach. More importantly, addition of recombinant Shh protein to the culture medium results in developmental anomalies of both organs. However, differentiation of the adult epithelium is more severely inhibited by exogenous Shh in the intestine than in the stomach. These results suggest that TH-upregulated expression of Shh plays important roles in the postembryonic gastrointestinal remodeling, but its roles are at least partially different between the intestine and the stomach.