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Cell Death Differ. 2006 Jul;13(7):1075-87. Epub 2005 Nov 25.

BMP-4 induces a Smad-dependent apoptotic cell death of mouse embryonic stem cell-derived neural precursors.

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  • 1INSERM, U634, Nice F-06107, France.


Embryonic ectoderm is fated to become either neural or epidermal, depending on patterning processes that occur before and during gastrulation. It has been stated that epidermal commitment proceeds from a bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP-4)-dependent inhibition of dorsal ectoderm neuralization. We recently demonstrated that murine embryonic stem (ES) cells treated with BMP-4 undergo effective keratinocyte commitment and epidermogenesis. Focusing on the precise role of BMP-4 in the early choice between neural and epidermal commitment, we show here that BMP-4 treatment of ES cells leads to a dramatic apoptotic death of Sox-1+ neural precursors with concomitant epidermal engagement. In addition, neutralization of the Smad pathway prevents both the BMP-4 apoptotic process and the inhibition of neural differentiation. Our results suggest that, in mammals, BMP-4, as an active inducer of epidermal commitment, interferes with the survival of neural precursors through induction of their apoptotic cell death.

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