Control of endocardial cushion and cardiac valve maturation by BMP signaling pathways

Mol Genet Metab. Sep-Oct 2003;80(1-2):27-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2003.07.004.


Congenital heart defects, the leading cause of deaths from birth defects, are estimated to occur in close to 1% of live newborns. Among these, abnormal septation of the heart and valve anomalies are the most frequent forms. Despite progress defining several genes involved in normal heart development, we still have a limited understanding of the signaling pathways involved in morphogenesis of the outflow tract (OFT) and, to date, very few genes have been identified that are responsible for defects in humans. Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling pathways are emerging as vital regulators of multiple aspects of cardiogenesis, including the septation of the OFT and valve maturation. Genetic and other in vivo evidence is now supporting the role for BMPs as inducers of endocardial cushion epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation that was suggested by in vitro explant studies as well as by their patterns of expression in the developing heart. Here, we review briefly the in vitro data, and detail the novel mouse models where perturbed BMP signaling pathways result in impaired OFT septation and semilunar valvulogenesis. We propose that growth of the OFT valve cushions is regulated by the level of BMP signaling, under the control of other signaling pathways.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Endocardial Cushion Defects / embryology
  • Endocardial Cushion Defects / metabolism*
  • Endocardial Cushion Defects / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / embryology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / metabolism*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / pathology
  • Heart Valves / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mice
  • Morphogenesis / genetics
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Mutation
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins