Retinoic acid inhibits BMP4-induced C3H10T1/2 stem cell commitment to adipocyte via downregulating Smad/p38MAPK signaling

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2011 Jun 10;409(3):550-5. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2011.05.042. Epub 2011 May 14.


Increased adipocyte formation from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is typical for obesity. It is recently observed that bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) provide instructive signals for the commitment of MSCs to adipocytes. We examined potential role of retinoic acid (RA) in inhibiting the BMP4 induction of MSC commitment toward adipocyte. BMP4-treated C3H10T1/2 MSCs, when further exposed to adipogenic differentiation media, displayed distinct adipocytic commitment and differentiation. This could be inhibited by RA exposure during the BMP4 treatment stage (commitment stage before adipogenic hormonal inducers were given), as was observed by reductions in key adipogenic genes/transcription factors (C/EBPα, PPARγ, aP2), lipogenic genes (LPL, FAS, GLUT4), and lipid accumulation. Among RA receptors (RARs) screened, RARβ was mainly upregulated under RA exposure. BMP4 signaled through both Smad1/5/8 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and RA significantly suppressed the BMP4-triggered phosphorylation of both Smad1/5/8 and p38MAPK. These data suggest that RA has inhibitory effects on the BMP4 induction of C3H10T1/2 adipocytic commitment via downregulating Smad/p38MAPK signaling. How to inhibit MSC adipocytic commitment, as partly revealed in this study, will have a significant impact on treating obesity and related diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / cytology*
  • Adipogenesis / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / pharmacology
  • Cell Line
  • Culture Media / pharmacology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Obesity
  • Smad Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Culture Media
  • Smad Proteins
  • Tretinoin
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases