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Genes Dev. 1989 Nov;3(11):1657-68.

Patterns of expression of murine Vgr-1 and BMP-2a RNA suggest that transforming growth factor-beta-like genes coordinately regulate aspects of embryonic development.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37232.


The murine Vgr-1 (Vg-related) and BMP-2a (bone morphogenetic protein 2a) genes are members of the decapentaplegic subgroup of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF beta) superfamily. Although genetic and biochemical studies suggest that the members of this subgroup play important roles in development, little is known about their function in mammals. Therefore, we investigated the expression of Vgr-1 and BMP-2a RNAs in embryonic, newborn, and adult tissues by in situ hybridization. Vgr-1 RNA is maternally encoded in ovarian oocytes but declines in fertilized eggs and is undectable by the two- to four-cell stage. Only low levels of transcripts are seen in blastocysts and early postimplantation stages. From mid-gestation on, Vgr-1 RNA is expressed at high levels in developing skin, especially in the suprabasal cells of the proliferating epidermis but not in the dermis or hair follicles, both of which contain TGF beta 1 and/or TGF beta 2 RNAs. In contrast, BMP-2a transcripts are seen only in the hair follicles in the cells of the hair bulb cortex. Temporally and spatially distinct patterns of BMP-2a, Vgr-1, TGF beta 1, and TGF beta 2 expression are also seen in different populations of mesenchymal cells in the developing skeletal system (cartilage and bone). Our results suggest that the coordinated expression of several members of the TGF beta superfamily is required to control the progression of specific cell types through their differentiation pathways.

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