The protein Sonic hedgehog (Shh) controls patterning and growth during vertebrate development. Here we demonstrate that it binds Patched (vPtc), which has been identified as a tumour-suppressor protein in basal cell carcinoma, with high affinity. We show that Ptc can form a physical complex with a newly cloned vertebrate homologue of the Drosophila protein Smoothened (vSmo), and that vSmo is coexpressed with vPtc in many tissues but does not bind Shh directly. These findings, combined with available genetic evidence from Drosophila, support the hypothesis that Ptc is a receptor for Shh, and that vSmo could be a signalling component that is linked to Ptc.
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