BMP4 induces EMT and Rho GTPase activation in human ovarian cancer cells

Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jun;28(6):1153-62. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgm015. Epub 2007 Feb 1.


We identified previously an autocrine bone morphogenetic protein-4 (BMP4) signalling pathway in primary human normal ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) and epithelial ovarian cancer (OvCa) cells. Herein we show that treatment of OvCa cells with BMP4 produced morphological alterations and increased cellular adhesion, motility and invasion. The BMP4 inhibitor noggin blocked the BMP4-induced phenotype, and decreased autocrine BMP4-mediated OvCa cell motility and adherence. In response to exogenous BMP4, the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) markers Snail and Slug mRNA and protein were up-regulated, E-cadherin mRNA and protein were down-regulated and the network of alpha smooth muscle actin changed to resemble a mesenchymal cell. We also observed changes in the level of activated Rho GTPases in OvCa cells treated with BMP4, strongly suggesting that the changes in morphology, adhesion, motility and invasion are probably mediated through the activation of these molecules. Strikingly, treatment of normal OSE cells with BMP4 or noggin failed to alter cell motility, providing evidence that OSE and OvCa cells possess a distinct capability to respond to BMP4. Overall, our studies suggest a link between autocrine BMP signalling mediated through the Rho GTPase family and Snail- and Slug-induced EMT that may collectively contribute to aggressive OvCa behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Epithelium / enzymology
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / enzymology*
  • Mesoderm / pathology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*


  • BMP4 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins