Transgenic overexpression of BMP4 increases astroglial and decreases oligodendroglial lineage commitment

Dev Biol. 2003 Mar 1;255(1):164-77. doi: 10.1016/s0012-1606(02)00037-4.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) promote astrocytic differentiation of cultured subventricular zone stem cells. To determine whether BMPs regulate the astrocytic lineage in vivo, transgenic mice were constructed that overexpress BMP4 under control of the neuron-specific enolase (NSE) promoter. Overexpression of BMP4 was first detectable by Western analysis on embryonic day 16 and persisted into the adult. The overexpression of BMP4 resulted in a remarkable 40% increase in the density of astrocytes in multiple brain regions accompanied by a decrease in the density of oligodendrocytes ranging between 11 and 26%, depending on the brain region and the developmental stage. No changes in neuron numbers or the pattern of myelination were detected, and there were no gross structural abnormalities. Similar phenotypes were observed in three independently derived transgenic lines. Coculture of transgenic neurons with neural progenitor cells significantly enhanced astrocytic lineage commitment by the progenitors; this effect was blocked by the BMP inhibitor Noggin, indicating that the stimulation of astrogliogenesis was due to BMP4 release by the transgenic neurons. These observations suggest that BMP4 directs progenitor cells in vivo to commit to the astrocytic rather than the oligodendroglial lineage. Further, differentiation of radial glial cells into astrocytes was accelerated, suggesting that radial glia were a source of at least some of the supernumerary astrocytes. Therefore, BMPs are likely important mediators of astrocyte development in vivo.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / cytology*
  • Astrocytes / drug effects
  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology*
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Genotype
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / analysis
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oligodendroglia / cytology*
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology
  • Proteins / pharmacology
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • Bmp4 protein, mouse
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Proteins
  • noggin protein