Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are typically members of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) family with diverse roles in embryonic development. At least five genes with homology to BMPs are expressed during Xenopus development, along with their receptors and intracellular signalling pathways. The evidence suggests that BMPs have roles to play in both mesoderm induction and dorsoventral patterning. Studies in Xenopus have also identified a number of inhibitory binding proteins for the classical BMPs, encoded by genes such as chordin and noggin. These proteins appear to be responsible for establishing a morphogen gradient of BMP4 activity, which specifies different dorsoventral fates in early gastrulae. An emerging theme is that inhibition of BMP signalling is an important mechanism regulating cell fate decisions in early development.
Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.