GDF3, a BMP inhibitor, regulates cell fate in stem cells and early embryos

Development. 2006 Jan;133(2):209-16. doi: 10.1242/dev.02192. Epub 2005 Dec 8.


The TGFbeta superfamily of ligands plays key functions in development and disease. In both human and mouse embryonic stem cells, a member of this family, GDF3, is specifically expressed in the pluripotent state. We show that GDF3 is an inhibitor of its own subfamily, blocks classic BMP signaling in multiple contexts, interacts with BMP proteins and is expressed specifically in the node during gastrulation in a pattern consistent with BMP inhibition. Furthermore, we use gain- and reduction-of-function to show that in a species-specific manner, GDF3 regulates both of the two major characteristics of embryonic stem cells: the ability to maintain the undifferentiated state and the ability to differentiate into the full spectrum of cell types.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Embryonic Development / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 3
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / physiology*
  • Xenopus


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • GDF3 protein, human
  • Gdf3 protein, mouse
  • Growth Differentiation Factor 3
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta