The Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway is active during embryonic development in metazoans, and provides instructional cues necessary for proper tissue patterning. The pathway signal transducing component, Smoothened (Smo), is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that has been demonstrated to signal through at least two effector routes. The first is a G protein–independent canonical route that signals to Gli transcriptional effectors to establish transcriptional programs specifying cell fate during early embryonic development. The second, commonly referred to as the noncanonical Smo signal, induces rapid, transcription-independent responses that are essential for establishing and maintaining distinct cell behaviors during development. Herein, we discuss contributions of this noncanonical route during embryonic development. We also highlight important open questions regarding noncanonical Smo signal route selection during development, and consider implications of noncanonical signal corruption in disease.
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