Immunohistochemical expression of Smads 1-6 in the 15-day gestation mouse embryo: signaling by BMPs and TGF-betas

Dev Dyn. 2001 Feb;220(2):141-54. doi: 10.1002/1097-0177(2000)9999:9999<::AID-DVDY1096>3.0.CO;2-4.


The eight mammalian Smad proteins mediate cellular signaling from members of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), and activin families. Smads 1, 5, and 8 transmit signals from BMPs, while Smads 2 and 3 transmit signals from TGF-betas and activin. Smad 4 is a common mediator of both pathways, while Smads 6 and 7 inhibit signaling. Signal transduction involves translocation of Smad complexes to the nucleus and subsequent gene activation. Little is known about the expression of endogenous Smad proteins during development. We identified commercially available Smad antibodies that specifically recognize a unique Smad protein and are suitable for immunohistochemistry. Here we compare the localization of Smads 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 in tissues of the 15-day gestation mouse embryo. Immunoreactive Smad proteins are seen in many tissues with differences in the localization being dependent upon the cell type. All tissues express Smad 4 and at least one each of the BMP-specific and TGF-beta-specific Smads, while expression of Smad 6 is more restricted. Differences are observed in the nuclear versus cytoplasmic localization among the Smads in different cell types or tissues, suggesting selective activation of Smads during this stage of development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology*
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / analysis
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / physiology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Growth Plate / embryology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity
  • Recombinant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Trans-Activators / analysis
  • Trans-Activators / genetics*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transfection
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta