R-spondins are BMP receptor antagonists in Xenopus early embryonic development

Nat Commun. 2020 Nov 4;11(1):5570. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19373-w.


BMP signaling plays key roles in development, stem cells, adult tissue homeostasis, and disease. How BMP receptors are extracellularly modulated and in which physiological context, is therefore of prime importance. R-spondins (RSPOs) are a small family of secreted proteins that co-activate WNT signaling and function as potent stem cell effectors and oncogenes. Evidence is mounting that RSPOs act WNT-independently but how and in which physiological processes remains enigmatic. Here we show that RSPO2 and RSPO3 also act as BMP antagonists. RSPO2 is a high affinity ligand for the type I BMP receptor BMPR1A/ALK3, and it engages ZNRF3 to trigger internalization and degradation of BMPR1A. In early Xenopus embryos, Rspo2 is a negative feedback inhibitor in the BMP4 synexpression group and regulates dorsoventral axis formation. We conclude that R-spondins are bifunctional ligands, which activate WNT- and inhibit BMP signaling via ZNRF3, with implications for development and cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't