The mechanisms that control cell proliferation and cell differentiation during morphogenesis of the endochondral skeleton of vertebrates are poorly understood. Indian hedgehog (Ihh) signaling from prehypertrophic chondrocytes has been implicated in the control of chondrocyte maturation by way of feedback control of a second secreted factor parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) at the articular surfaces. Analysis of an Ihh null mutant suggests a more extensive role for Ihh in skeletal development. Mutants display markedly reduced chondrocyte proliferation, maturation of chondrocytes at inappropriate position, and a failure of osteoblast development in endochondral bones. Together, the results suggest a model in which Ihh coordinates diverse aspects of skeletal morphogenesis through PTHrP-dependent and independent processes.
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