Developmental Pathway (Hh/Wnt) Set

During embryonic development, cells undergo a complex process of differentiation to form specialized tissues and organs. This process is directed by signaling pathways that communicate information about the environment, cell identity, and growth factors to the nucleus of the cells. One of the most important pathways involved in this process is the Hh/Wnt pathway.

The Hh/Wnt pathway is a highly conserved and crucial signaling pathway found in most animals, including humans. It plays a significant role in embryonic development, tissue regeneration, and cancer biology. The pathway gets its name from two key molecules involved in the process, Hedgehog (Hh), and Wingless (Wnt).

Key Features of the Hh/Wnt Pathway:

The Hh/Wnt pathway controls numerous aspects of cell growth and differentiation, including the following:

  1. Stem cell maintenance: The pathway plays an essential role in maintaining the pluripotent nature of stem cells, which allows them to differentiate into multiple cell types.
  2. Pattern formation: The Hh/Wnt pathway influences the patterning of tissues and organs during embryo development by controlling cell proliferation and differentiation.
  3. Axon guidance: During the nervous system development, the Hh/Wnt pathway plays a crucial role in guiding the growth of axons and dendrites.
  4. Wound healing and tissue repair: The pathway also controls the regenerative capacity of tissues by regulating the proliferation and differentiation of cells during the healing process.
  5. Cancer: The Hh/Wnt pathway is also involved in cancer biology, as mutations in the genes involved in the process can lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation and the development of tumors.
The Hh/Wnt Pathway Set

To study the Hh/Wnt pathway, a set of genes and proteins are typically analyzed since they play a crucial role in regulating the process. This set includes molecules such as:

Hedgehog (Hh)

Hh is a signaling protein that binds to a receptor called Patched (Ptc), leading to the activation of another receptor called Smoothened (Smo). This activation initiates a cascade of events that leads to changes in gene expression, ultimately resulting in cell differentiation.

Wingless (Wnt)

Wnt is another signaling protein that binds to its receptor Frizzled (Fz) and co-receptor LRP5/6. This binding leads to the activation of the Disheveled (Dsh) protein, which regulates the activity of several downstream signaling molecules.


β-Catenin is a protein that regulates gene expression and controls cell proliferation and differentiation. In the Hh/Wnt pathway, it plays a crucial role in regulating the activity of the transcription factor TCF/LEF.


Gli proteins are transcription factors that play a critical role in regulating the activity of genes involved in cell differentiation. In the Hh/Wnt pathway, they are regulated by the Smoothened receptor, which ultimately controls their activity.


The Hh/Wnt pathway is one of the most crucial signaling pathways involved in embryonic development, tissue regeneration, and cancer biology. By studying the genes and proteins involved in this pathway, researchers can gain insights into the underlying mechanisms that control cell growth, differentiation, and development. Understanding this pathway may lead to new therapies for cancer, nerve injury, and other regenerative diseases.