Discovery of novel downstream target genes regulated by the hedgehog pathway

Ingram, Wendy Jill (2003). Discovery of novel downstream target genes regulated by the hedgehog pathway PhD Thesis, School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2014.316

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Author Ingram, Wendy Jill
Thesis Title Discovery of novel downstream target genes regulated by the hedgehog pathway
School, Centre or Institute School of Molecular and Microbial Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2014.316
Publication date 2003-01-01
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Brandon Wainwright
Total pages 344
Collection year 2003
Language eng
Subjects L
270299 Genetics not elsewhere classified
780105 Biological sciences
Formatted abstract

Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a secreted morphogen involved in patterning a wide range of structures in the developing embryo. When cells receive the Shh signal a cascade of effects begin which in turn regulate downstream target genes. The genes controlled by Sonic hedgehog provide messages instructing cells how to differentiate or when to divide. 


Disruption of the hedgehog signalling cascade leads to a number of developmental disorders and plays a key role in the formation of a range of human cancers. Patched, the receptor for Shh, acts as a tumour suppressor and is mutated in naevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (NBCCS). NBCCS patients display a susceptibility to tumour formation, particularly for basal cell carcinoma (BCC). The discovery of Patched mutations in sporadic BCCs and other tumour types further highlights the importance of this pathway to human cancer. 


The identification of genes regulated by hedgehog is crucial for understanding how disruption of this pathway leads to neoplastic transformation. It is assumed that the abnormal expression of such genes plays a large role in directing cells to divide at inappropriate times. Only a small number of genes controlled by Shh have been described in vertebrate tissues. 


In the work presented in this thesis a Sonic hedgehog responsive embryonic mouse cell line, C3H/10T1/2, was used as a model system for hedgehog target gene discovery. Known downstream target genes were profiled to determine their induction kinetics, building up a body of knowledge on the response to Shh for this cell type. During this work, it was discovered that C3H/10T1/2 cells do not become fully competent to respond to Shh stimulation until the cells reach a critical density, a factor that had to be taken into account when determining timepoints of interest for further investigation. Several techniques were employed to identify genes that show expression changes between Shh stimulated and control cells. 


In one of these techniques, RNA from cell cultures activated with Shh was used to interrogate cDNA microarrays, and this provided many insights into the downstream transcriptional consequences of hedgehog stimulation. Microarrays consist of thousands of spots of DNA of known sequence gridded onto glass slides. Experiments using this technology allow the expression level of thousands of genes to be measured simultaneously. Independent stimulation methods combined with northern blotting were used to investigate individual genes of interest, allowing genuine targets to be confirmed and false positives eliminated. This resulted in the identification of eleven target genes. Seven of these are induced by Sonic hedgehog (Thrombomodulin (Thbd), Glucocorticoid induced leucine zipper (GHz), Brain factor 2 (Bf2), Nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, member 1 (Nr4al), Insulin-like growth factor 2 (Igf2), Peripheral myelin protein 22 (Pmp22), Lim and SH3 Protein 1 (Laspl)), and four are repressed {Secreted frizzled related proteins 1 and 2(Sfrpl and Sfrp2), Macrophage inflammatory protein-1 gamma (Mip-ly), and Anti-mullerian hormone (Amh)). The majority of these represent novel downstream genes not previously reported as targets of Shh. The new target genes have a diverse range of functions, and include transcriptional regulators and molecules known to be involved in regulating cell growth or apoptosis. 


The corroboration of genes previously implicated in hedgehog signalling, along with the finding of novel targets, demonstrates both the validity and power of the C3H/10T1/2 system for Shh target gene discovery. The identification of novel Sonic hedgehog responsive genes provides candidates whose abnormal expression may be decisive in initiating tumour formation and future studies will investigate their role in development and disease. It is expected that such findings will provide vital clues to the aetiology of various human cancers, and that an understanding of their roles may ultimately provide greater opportunities in the future design of anti-tumour therapies.

Keyword Cancer -- Genetic aspects
Additional Notes

Variant title: Downstream target genes regulated by the hedgehog pathway

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Sat, 22 Nov 2008, 03:30:39 EST