Functional analysis of BMP4 signaling in mouse neural development

Qiyong Hu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


During early mouse neural development, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling patterns the dorsal neural tube and defines distinct neural progenitor cell domains along the dorsoventral axis. Unlike the ventral signaling molecule Sonic hedgehog, which has long-range activity by establishing a concentration gradient in the ventral neural tube, these dorsally expressed BMPs appear to have a limited domain of action. This raises questions as to how BMP activity is restricted locally and how restricted BMP signaling directs dorsal neural patterning and differentiation. I hypothesize that BMPs are restricted in the dorsal neural tube for correct dorsoventral patterning. Previous studies have shown that the positively charged basic amino acids located at the N-terminus of several BMPs are essential for heparin binding and diffusion. This provides a novel tool to address these questions. Here I adapted a UAS/GAL4 bigenic mouse system to control the ectopic expression of BMP4 and a mutant form of BMP4 that lacks a subset of the N-terminal basic amino acids. The target genes, UAS-Bmp4 and UAS-mBmp4 , were introduced into the Hprt locus by gene targeting in mouse embryonic stem cells. The expression of the GAL4 transactivator was driven by a roof plate specific Wnt1 promoter. The bigenic mouse embryos exhibit phenotype variations, ranging from mid/hindbrain defects, hemorrhage, and eye abnormalities to vasculture formation. Embryonic death starts around E11.5 because of severe hemorrhage. The different expression levels of the activated transgene may account for the phenotype variation. Further marker analysis reveals that mutant BMP4 induces ectopic expression of the dorsal markers MSX1/2 and PAX7 in the ventral neural tube. In addition, the expression of the ventral neural marker NKX2.2 is affected by the expanded BMP4 activity, indicating that ectopic BMP signaling can antagonize ventral signaling. Comparison of the phenotypes of the Wnt1/ Bmp4 and Wnt1/mBmp4 bigenic embryos that express transgenes at the same level, respectively, shows that mutant BMP4 causes the expansion of dorsal neural fates ventrally while wild type BMP4 does not, suggesting that mutant BMP4 acts farther than wild type BMP4. Together, these data suggest that the N-terminus basic amino acid core controls BMP4 long-range activity in neural development, and that BMP signaling patterns the dorsal neural tube through a secondary signaling pathway that involves homeodomain transcription factors MSX1/2 and PAX7.

Subject Area

Neurology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Hu, Qiyong, "Functional analysis of BMP4 signaling in mouse neural development" (2002). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3056494.