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J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Oct;26(10):2498-510. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.443.

Smad6 is essential to limit BMP signaling during cartilage development.

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Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathways regulate multiple aspects of endochondral bone formation. The importance of extracellular antagonists as regulators of BMP signaling has been defined. In vitro studies reveal that the intracellular regulators, inhibitory Smads 6 and 7, can regulate BMP-mediated effects on chondrocytes. Although in vivo studies in which inhibitory Smads were overexpressed in cartilage have shown that inhibitory Smads have the potential to limit BMP signaling in vivo, the physiological relevance of inhibitory Smad activity in skeletal tissues is unknown. In this study, we have determined the role of Smad6 in endochondral bone formation. Loss of Smad6 in mice leads to defects in both axial and appendicular skeletal development. Specifically, Smad6-/- mice exhibit a posterior transformation of the seventh cervical vertebra, bilateral ossification centers in lumbar vertebrae, and bifid sternebrae due to incomplete sternal band fusion. Histological analysis of appendicular bones revealed delayed onset of hypertrophic differentiation and mineralization at midgestation in Smad6-/- mice. By late gestation, however, an expanded hypertrophic zone, associated with an increased pool of proliferating cells undergoing hypertrophy, was evident in Smad6 mutant growth plates. The mutant phenotype is attributed, at least in part, to increased BMP responsiveness in Smad6-deficient chondrocytes. Overall, our results show that Smad6 is required to limit BMP signaling during endochondral bone formation.

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