Bone morphogenetic proteins regulate neural tube closure by interacting with the apicobasal polarity pathway

Development. 2011 Aug;138(15):3179-88. doi: 10.1242/dev.058602.


During neural tube closure, specialized regions called hinge points (HPs) display dynamic and polarized cell behaviors necessary for converting the neural plate into a neural tube. The molecular bases of such cell behaviors (e.g. apical constriction, basal nuclear migration) are poorly understood. We have identified a two-dimensional canonical BMP activity gradient in the chick neural plate that results in low and temporally pulsed BMP activity at the ventral midline/median hinge point (MHP). Using in vivo manipulations, high-resolution imaging and biochemical analyses, we show that BMP attenuation is necessary and sufficient for MHP formation. Conversely, BMP overexpression abolishes MHP formation and prevents neural tube closure. We provide evidence that BMP modulation directs neural tube closure via the regulation of apicobasal polarity. First, BMP blockade produces partially polarized neural cells, which retain contact with the apical and basal surfaces but where basolateral proteins (LGL) become apically localized and apical junctional proteins (PAR3, ZO1) become targeted to endosomes. Second, direct LGL misexpression induces ectopic HPs identical to those produced by noggin or dominant-negative BMPR1A. Third, BMP-dependent biochemical interactions occur between the PAR3-PAR6-aPKC polarity complex and phosphorylated SMAD5 at apical junctions. Finally, partially polarized cells normally occur at the MHP, their frequencies inversely correlated with the BMP activity gradient in the neural plate. We propose that spatiotemporal modulation of the two-dimensional BMP gradient transiently alters cell polarity in targeted neuronal cells. This ensures that the neural plate is flexible enough to be focally bent and shaped into a neural tube, while retaining overall epithelial integrity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Morphogenesis / physiology*
  • Neural Tube / cytology*
  • Neural Tube / embryology*
  • Neural Tube / physiology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Smad Proteins / genetics
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Smad Proteins