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Dev Biol. 2003 Aug 1;260(1):138-57.

Coordination of BMP-3b and cerberus is required for head formation of Xenopus embryos.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, National Cardiovascular Center Research Institute, Suita, Osaka 565-8565, Japan.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and their antagonists are involved in the axial patterning of vertebrate embryos. We report that both BMP-3b and BMP-3 dorsalize Xenopus embryos, but act as dissimilar antagonists within the BMP family. BMP-3b injected into Xenopus embryos triggered secondary head formation in an autonomous manner, whereas BMP-3 induced aberrant tail formation. At the molecular level, BMP-3b antagonized nodal-like proteins and ventralizing BMPs, whereas BMP-3 antagonized only the latter. These differences are due to divergence of their pro-domains. Less BMP-3b than BMP-3 precursor is proteolytically processed in embryos. BMP-3b protein associated with a monomeric form of Xnrl, a nodal-like protein, whereas BMP-3 did not. These molecular features are consistent with their expression profiles during Xenopus development. XBMP-3b is expressed in the prechordal plate, while xBMP-3 is expressed in the notochord. Using antisense morpholino oligonucleotides, we found that the depletion of both xBMP-3b and cerberus, a head inducer, caused headless Xenopus embryos, whereas the depletion of both xBMP-3 and cerberus affected the size of the somite. These results revealed that xBMP-3b and cerberus are essential for head formation regulated by the Spemann organizer, and that xBMP-3b and perhaps xBMP-3 are involved in the axial patterning of Xenopus embryos.

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