BMP signaling patterns the dorsal and intermediate neural tube via regulation of homeobox and helix-loop-helix transcription factors

Development. 2002 May;129(10):2459-72.


In the spinal neural tube, populations of neuronal precursors that express a unique combination of transcription factors give rise to specific classes of neurons at precise locations along the dorsoventral axis. Understanding the patterning mechanisms that generate restricted gene expression along the dorsoventral axis is therefore crucial to understanding the creation of diverse neural cell types. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and other transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) proteins are expressed by the dorsal-most cells of the neural tube (the roofplate) and surrounding tissues, and evidence indicates that they play a role in assigning cell identity. We have manipulated the level of BMP signaling in the chicken neural tube to show that BMPs provide patterning information to both dorsal and intermediate cells. BMP regulation of the expression boundaries of the homeobox proteins Pax6, Dbx2 and Msx1 generates precursor populations with distinct developmental potentials. Within the resulting populations, thresholds of BMP act to set expression domain boundaries of developmental regulators of the homeobox and basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) families, ultimately leading to the generation of a diversity of differentiated neural cell types. This evidence strongly suggests that BMPs are the key regulators of dorsal cell identity in the spinal neural tube.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Body Patterning
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptors
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Chick Embryo
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Eye Proteins
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Helix-Loop-Helix Motifs
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • MSX1 Transcription Factor
  • Mutation
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Growth Factor*
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Avian Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • CASH-1 protein, Gallus gallus
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Dbx2 protein, mouse
  • Eye Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • MSX1 Transcription Factor
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Pax6 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Growth Factor
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Neurog1 protein, mouse
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptors