We and others have recently described the antagonistic role of Bone morphogenetic protein-7 (BMP-7) in TGF-β signalling and myogenic differentiation. To specify the underlying mechanism(s), we here analysed the expression and function of the individual components mediating TGF-β1 and BMP-7 responses. We found that BMP-7 at a concentration of 25 ng/ml induces signalling exclusively via ALK2 and ALK3 leading to the activation of Smad1 and Smad5 and subsequent expression of Id proteins. In contrast, low doses of TGF-β1 (0.1 ng/ml) lead to an exclusive activation of ALK5 and phosphorylation of Smad2 and Smad3 that regulate specific target genes including connective tissue growth factor (CTGF). CTGF is rapidly induced by TGF-β1 already 1h after stimulation and reduced by BMP-7 application. Smad1/Smad5 or Id1/2 overexpression reduced the TGF-β1-mediated expression of CTGF. However, although siRNA-mediated knock down of Alk2/3 or Smad1/5 counteracts the BMP-7 effect on basal CTGF expression there was no consistent reversion of the observed BMP-7 effect on TGF-β1-mediated CTGF expression. Moreover, ALK5 inhibition using the SB431542 inhibitor significantly affected CTGF expression only at later time points whereas ERK1/2 inhibition completely abrogated CTGF expression. These findings point towards a regulatory role of BMP-7 that relies on modulation of Mitogen-activated protein kinases rather than mechanisms that are exclusively driven by differential Smad activation.
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