Indian hedgehog synchronizes skeletal angiogenesis and perichondrial maturation with cartilage development

Céline Colnot, Luis de la Fuente, Steve Huang, Diane Hu, Chuanyong Lu, Benoit St-Jacques, Jill A. Helms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


A null mutation in the morphogen Indian hedgehog (IHH) results in an embryonic lethal phenotype characterized by the conspicuous absence of bony tissue in the extremities. We show that this ossification defect is not attributable to a permanent arrest in cartilage differentiation, since Ihh-/- chondrocytes undergo hypertrophy and terminal differentiation, express angiogenic markers such as Vegf, and are invaded, albeit aberrantly, by blood vessels. Subsequent steps, including vessel expansion and persistence, are impaired, and the net result is degraded cartilage matrix that is devoid of blood vessels. The absence of blood vessels is not because the Ihh-/- skeleton is anti-angiogenic; in fact, in an ex vivo environment, both wild-type and Ihh mutant vessels invade the Ihh-/- cartilage, though only wild-type vessels expand to create the marrow cavity. In the ex vivo setting, Ihh-/- cells differentiate into osteoblasts and deposit a bony matrix, without benefit of exogenous hedgehog in the new environment. Even more surprising is our finding that the earliest IHH-dependent skeletal defect is obvious by the time the limb mesenchyme segregates into chondrogenic and perichondrogenic condensations. Although Ihh-/- cells organize into chondrogenic condensations similar in size and shape to wild-type condensations, perichondrial cells surrounding the mutant condensations are clearly faulty. They fail to aggregate, elongate and flatten into a definitive, endothelial cell-rich perichondrium like their wild-type counterparts. Normally, these cells surrounding the chondrogenic condensation are exposed to IHH, as evidenced by their expression of the hedgehog target genes, patched (Ptch) and Gli1. In the mutant environment, the milieu surrounding the cartilage - comprising osteoblast precursors and endothelial cells - as well as the cartilage itself, develop in the absence of this important morphogen. In conclusion, the skeletal phenotype of Ihh-/- embryos represents the sum of disturbances in three separate cell populations, the chondrocytes, the osteoblasts and the vasculature, each of which is a direct target of hedgehog signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1057-1067
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone
  • Lineage analysis
  • Null mutant mouse
  • Pericyte
  • Renal capsule transplantation
  • Vasculature
  • X-gal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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