Smoothened Goes Molecular: New Pieces in the Hedgehog Signaling Puzzle [Developmental Biology]

December 17th, 2014 by McCabe, J. M., Leahy, D. J.

A general aim of studies of signal transduction is to identify mediators of specific signals, order them into pathways, and understand the nature of interactions between individual components and how these interactions alter pathway behavior. Despite years of intensive study and its central importance to animal development and human health, our understanding of the Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway remains riddled with gaps, question marks, assumptions, and poorly understood connections. In particular, understanding how interactions between Hh and Patched (Ptc), a 12-pass integral membrane protein, lead to modulation of the function of Smoothened (Smo), a 7-pass integral membrane protein, has defied standard biochemical characterization. Recent structural and biochemical characterizations of Smoothened domains have begun to unlock this riddle, however, and point towards improved cancer therapies.