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Dev Biol. 2007 Dec 1;312(1):103-14. Epub 2007 Sep 20.

Signaling by bone morphogenetic proteins directs formation of an ectodermal signaling center that regulates craniofacial development.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco General Hospital, The University of California at San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.


We previously described a signaling center, the Frontonasal Ectodermal Zone (FEZ) that regulates growth and patterning of the frontonasal process (FNP). The FEZ is comprised of FNP ectoderm flanking a boundary between Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and Fibroblast growth factor 8 (Fgf8) expression domains. Our objective was to examine BMP signaling during formation of the FEZ. We blocked BMP signaling throughout the FNP prior to FEZ formation by infecting chick embryos at stage 10 (HH10) with a replication-competent avian retrovirus encoding the BMP antagonist Noggin. We assessed gene expression patterns in the FNP 72 h after infection (approximately HH22) and observed that Shh expression was reduced or absent. In the mesenchyme, we observed that Bmp2 transcripts were absent while the Bmp4 expression domain was expanded proximally. In addition to the molecular changes, infected embryos also exhibited facial malformations at 72 and 96 h after infection suggesting that the FEZ did not form. Our data indicate that reduced cell proliferation, but not apoptosis, in the mesenchyme contributed to the phenotype that we observed. Additionally, adding exogenous SHH into the mesenchyme of RCAS-Noggin-infected embryos did not restore Bmp2 and Bmp4 to a normal pattern of expression. These data indicate that BMP signaling mediates interactions between tissues in the FNP that regulate FEZ formation; and that the correct pattern of Bmp2 and Bmp4, but not Bmp7, expression in the FNP mesenchyme requires signaling by the BMP pathway.

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