Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Bone Morphogenetic Proteins and Activins in the Skin: Potential Benefits for Wound Healing

Arch Dermatol Res. 2013 Sep;305(7):557-69. doi: 10.1007/s00403-013-1381-2. Epub 2013 Jun 26.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and activins are phylogenetically conserved proteins, belonging to the transforming growth factor-β superfamily, that signal through the phosphorylation of receptor-regulated Smad proteins, activating different cell responses. They are involved in various steps of skin morphogenesis and wound repair, as can be evidenced by the fact that their expression is increased in skin injuries. BMPs play not only a role in bone regeneration but are also involved in cartilage, tendon-like tissue and epithelial regeneration, maintain vascular integrity, capillary sprouting, proliferation/migration of endothelial cells and angiogenesis, promote neuron and dendrite formation, alter neuropeptide levels and are involved in immune response modulation, at least in animal models. On the other hand, activins are involved in wound repair through the regulation of skin and immune cell migration and differentiation, re-epithelialization and granulation tissue formation, and also promote the expression of collagens by fibroblasts and modulate scar formation. This review aims at enunciating the effects of BMPs and activins in the skin, namely in skin development, as well as in crucial phases of skin wound healing, such as inflammation, angiogenesis and repair, and will focus on the effects of these proteins on skin cells and their signaling pathways, exploring the potential therapeutic approach of the application of BMP-2, BMP-6 and activin A in chronic wounds, particularly diabetic foot ulcerations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activins / metabolism*
  • Activins / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Diabetic Foot / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Regeneration
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Wound Healing*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Activins