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Endocrinology. 2014 May;155(5):1970-81. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1741. Epub 2014 Mar 6.

Bone morphogenetic protein 2 stimulates noncanonical SMAD2/3 signaling via the BMP type 1A receptor in gonadotrope-like cells: implications for FSH synthesis.

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Departments of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Y.W., C.C.H., E.B., C.A.R., V.L., P.P., T.E.H., D.J.B.), Oncology (C.A.R.), Obstetrics and Gynecology (D.J.B.), and Anatomy and Cell Biology (D.J.B.), McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3G 1Y6.


FSH is an essential regulator of mammalian reproduction. Its synthesis by pituitary gonadotrope cells is regulated by multiple endocrine and paracrine factors, including TGFβ superfamily ligands, such as the activins and inhibins. Activins stimulate FSH synthesis via transcriptional regulation of its β-subunit gene (Fshb). More recently, bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) were shown to stimulate murine Fshb transcription alone and in synergy with activins. BMP2 signals via its canonical type I receptor, BMPR1A (or activin receptor-like kinase 3 [ALK3]), and SMAD1 and SMAD5 to stimulate transcription of inhibitor of DNA binding proteins. Inhibitor of DNA binding proteins then potentiate the actions of activin-stimulated SMAD3 to regulate the Fshb gene in the gonadotrope-like LβT2 cell line. Here, we report the unexpected observation that BMP2 also stimulates the SMAD2/3 pathway in these cells and that it does so directly via ALK3. Indeed, this novel, noncanonical ALK3 activity is completely independent of ALK4, ALK5, and ALK7, the type I receptors most often associated with SMAD2/3 pathway activation. Induction of the SMAD2/3 pathway by ALK3 is dependent upon its own previous activation by associated type II receptors, which phosphorylate conserved serine and threonine residues in the ALK3 juxtamembrane glycine-serine-rich domain. ALK3 signaling via SMAD3 is necessary for the receptor to stimulate Fshb transcription, whereas its activation of the SMAD1/5/8 pathway alone is insufficient. These data challenge current dogma that ALK3 and other BMP type I receptors signal via SMAD1, SMAD5, and SMAD8 and not SMAD2 or SMAD3. Moreover, they suggest that BMPs and activins may use similar intracellular signaling mechanisms to activate the murine Fshb promoter in immortalized gonadotrope-like cells.

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