Bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), a member of transforming growth factor-beta superfamily, inhibits the terminal differentiation of C2C12 myoblasts and changes their differentiation pathway into cells expressing osteoblast phenotypes such as alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and osteocalcin production (Katagiri et al., 1994, J. Cell Biol. 127, 1755-1766). Two type I receptors for BMP-2 (BMPR-IA and BMPR-IB) have been cloned, but the role of the respective receptors in signal transduction is not clear. In the present study, we examined the signal transduction of BMP-2 in C2C12 cells using constitutively activated mutant BMPR-IA and BMPR-IB. C2C12 cells expressed BMPR-IA and BMPR-II mRNAs, but not BMPR-IB mRNA at detectable levels in Northern blotting. When mutated BMPR-IA and BMPR-IB were transiently transfected into C2C12 cells, both BMPR-IA and BMPR-IB similarly induced ALP activity in the absence of BMP-2. We also established subclonal cell lines of C2C12 cells by stably transfecting mutated BMPR-IB. When the mutated BMPR-IB-transfected cells were cultured in medium with low serum (differentiation medium) without BMP-2, the cells differentiated into ALP-positive mononuclear cells and not into myosin heavy chain-positive myotubes. These mutated BMPR-IB-transfected cells expressed ALP activity and osteocalcin mRNA in a time-dependent manner, but neither muscle creatine kinase nor myogenin mRNAs. These results indicate that the mutated BMP-2 type I receptors can constitutively transduce BMP-2 signals in the absence of the ligand in C2C12 cells.