Members of the Hedgehog (Hh) family are highly conserved proteins which are widely represented throughout the animal kingdom. The three known mammalian Hh proteins, Sonic (Shh), Desert (Dhh) and Indian (Ihh) are structurally related and share a high degree of amino-acid sequence identity (e.g., Shh and Ihh are 93% identical). The biologically active form of Hh molecules is obtained by autocatalytic cleavage of their precursor proteins and corresponds to approximately the N-terminal one half of the precursor molecule. Although Hh proteins have unique expression patterns and distinct biological roles within their respective regions of secretion, they use the same signaling pathway and can substitute for each other in experimental systems.
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