The bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are a group of powerful morphogens that are critical for development of the nervous system. The effects of BMP signaling on neural stem cells are myriad and dynamic, changing with each stage of development. During early development inhibition of BMP signaling differentiates neuroectoderm from ectoderm, and BMP signaling helps to specify neural crest. Thus modulation of BMP signaling underlies formation of both the central and peripheral nervous systems. BMPs secreted from dorsal structures then form a gradient which helps pattern the dorsal-ventral axis of the developing spinal cord and brain. During forebrain development BMPs sequentially induce neurogenesis and then astrogliogenesis and participate in neurite outgrowth from immature neurons. BMP signaling also plays a critical role in maintaining adult neural stem cell niches in the subventricular zone (SVZ) and subgranular zone (SGZ). BMPs are able to exert such diverse effects through closely regulated temporospatial expression and interaction with other signaling pathways.
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