Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

James F. Martin, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yasuhide Furuta, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mingyao Lui, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pierre D. McCrea, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael R. Blackburn, Ph.D.


Much of the craniofacial skeleton, such as the skull vault, mandible and midface, develops through direct, intramembranous ossification of the cranial neural crest (CNC) derived progenitor cells. Bmp-signaling plays critical roles in normal craniofacial development, and Bmp4 deficiency results in craniofacial abnormalities, such as cleft lip and palate. We performed an in depth analysis of Bmp4, a critical regulator of development, disease, and evolution, in the CNC. Conditional Bmp4 overexpression, using a tetracycline regulated Bmp4 gain of function allele, resulted in facial form changes that were most dramatic after an E10.5 Bmp4 induction. Expression profiling uncovered a signature of Bmp4 induced genes (BIG) composed predominantly of transcriptional regulators controlling self-renewal, osteoblast differentiation, and negative Bmp autoregulation. The complimentary experiment, CNC inactivation of Bmp2, Bmp4, and Bmp7, resulted in complete or partial loss of multiple CNC derived skeletal elements revealing a critical requirement for Bmp-signaling in membranous bone and cartilage development. Importantly, the BIG signature was reduced in Bmp loss of function mutants indicating similar Bmp-regulated target genes underlying facial form modulation and normal skeletal morphogenesis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) revealed a subset of the BIG signature, including Satb2, Smad6, Hand1, Gadd45g and Gata3 that was bound by Smad1/5 in the developing mandible revealing direct, Smad-mediated regulation. These data indicate that Bmp-signaling regulates craniofacial skeletal development and facial form by balancing self-renewal and differentiation pathways in CNC progenitors.


Bone morphogenetic protein, morphogenesis, neural crest



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