The secreted BMP antagonist ERFE is required for the development of a functional circulatory system in Xenopus

Dev Biol. 2020 Mar 15;459(2):138-148. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2019.12.007. Epub 2019 Dec 14.


The hormone Erythroferrone (ERFE) is a member of the C1q/TNF-related protein family that regulates iron homeostasis through the suppression of hamp. In a gain of function screen in Xenopus embryos, we identified ERFE as a potent secondary axis-inducing agent. Experiments in Xenopus embryos and ectodermal explants revealed that ERFE functions as a selective inhibitor of the BMP pathway and the conserved C1q domain is not required for this activity. Inhibition occurs at the extracelluar level, through the interaction of ERFE with the BMP ligand. During early Xenopus embryogenesis, erfe is first expressed in the ventral blood islands where initial erythropoiesis occurs and later in circulating blood cells. ERFE knockdown does not alter the expression of etv.2, aplnr and flt1 in tailbud stage embryos indicating endothelial cell specification is independent of ERFE. However, in tadpole embryos, defects of the vascular network and primitive blood circulation are observed as well as edema formation. RNAseq analysis of ERFE morphant embryos also revealed the inhibition of gja4 indicating disruption of dorsal aorta formation.

Keywords: BMP signaling; Erythroferrone; Vascular; Xenopus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4 / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular System / embryology*
  • Collagen / genetics
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Ectoderm / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Erythropoiesis / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / genetics
  • Muscle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Peptide Hormones / genetics
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Xenopus Proteins / genetics
  • Xenopus Proteins / metabolism*
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Cytokines
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • Collagen