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Mech Dev. 1998 Jun;74(1-2):75-88.

Ventral mesoderm induction and patterning by bone morphogenetic protein heterodimers in Xenopus embryos.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Institute of Cell and Developmental Biology, State University of New York, Stony Brook 11794-5215, USA.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) perform diverse functions in vertebrate development. Here we demonstrate that the heterodimeric BMP-4/7 protein directly induces ventral mesoderm and blood in Xenopus animal caps, and BMP-2/7 heterodimers may function similarly. We also provide indirect evidence that BMP heterodimers function in embryos, using assays with dominant-negative BMP ligands. Homodimeric BMP-2 and BMP-4 proteins do not induce mesoderm, but they ventralize mesoderm induction by activin. In contrast, BMP-7 protein interferes with mesoderm induction by activin, but BMP-7 stimulates ventral mesoderm induction by the heterodimer, BMP-4/7. This novel property of BMP-7 distinguishes it from other BMPs. BMP-7 may therefore function in early embryogenesis to antagonize activin signals and potentiate BMP signals. We propose that BMP heterodimers convey signals for ventral mesoderm induction and patterning in Xenopus development.

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