Extrinsic BMP and LIF signaling collaboratively maintain mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency, whereas appropriate ERK activity is essential for ESC fate commitment. However, how the extrinsic signals restrain appropriate ERK activity remains elusive. Here, we show that, whereas LIF sustains relatively high ERK activity, BMP4 can steadily attenuate ERK activity by upregulating ERK-specific dual-specificity phosphatase 9 (DUSP9). This upregulation requires Smad1/5 and Smad4 and specifically occurs to DUSP9, but not other DUSPs, and only in ESCs. Through DUSP9-mediated inhibition of ERK activity, BMP signaling reinforces the self-renewal status of mouse ESCs together with LIF. Upon LIF withdrawal, ESCs spontaneously undergo neural differentiation, during which process DUSP9 can partially mediate BMP inhibition on neural commitment. Collectively, our findings identify DUSP9 as a critical mediator of BMP signaling to control appropriate ERK activity critical for ESC fate determination.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.