The BMP signaling plays a pivotal role in the development of craniofacial organs, including the tooth and palate. BmprIa and BmprIb encode two type I BMP receptors that are primarily responsible for BMP signaling transduction. We investigated mesenchymal tissue-specific requirement of BmprIa and its functional redundancy with BmprIb during the development of mouse tooth and palate. BmprIa and BmprIb exhibit partially overlapping and distinct expression patterns in the developing tooth and palatal shelf. Neural crest-specific inactivation of BmprIa leads to formation of an unusual type of anterior clefting of the secondary palate, an arrest of tooth development at the bud/early cap stages, and severe hypoplasia of the mandible. Defective tooth and palate development is accompanied by the down-regulation of BMP-responsive genes and reduced cell proliferation levels in the palatal and dental mesenchyme. To determine if BmprIb could substitute for BmprIa during tooth and palate development, we expressed a constitutively active form of BmprIb (caBmprIb) in the neural crest cells in which BmprIa was simultaneously inactivated. We found that substitution of BmprIa by caBmprIb in neural rest cells rescues the development of molars and maxillary incisor, but the rescued teeth exhibit a delayed odontoblast and ameloblast differentiation. In contrast, caBmprIb fails to rescue the palatal and mandibular defects including the lack of lower incisors. Our results demonstrate an essential role for BmprIa in the mesenchymal component and a limited functional redundancy between BmprIa and BmprIb in a tissue-specific manner during tooth and palate development.
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