Ventral mesoderm induction and patterning by bone morphogenetic protein heterodimers in Xenopus embryos

Mech Dev. 1998 Jun;74(1-2):75-88. doi: 10.1016/s0925-4773(98)00070-7.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) perform diverse functions in vertebrate development. Here we demonstrate that the heterodimeric BMP-4/7 protein directly induces ventral mesoderm and blood in Xenopus animal caps, and BMP-2/7 heterodimers may function similarly. We also provide indirect evidence that BMP heterodimers function in embryos, using assays with dominant-negative BMP ligands. Homodimeric BMP-2 and BMP-4 proteins do not induce mesoderm, but they ventralize mesoderm induction by activin. In contrast, BMP-7 protein interferes with mesoderm induction by activin, but BMP-7 stimulates ventral mesoderm induction by the heterodimer, BMP-4/7. This novel property of BMP-7 distinguishes it from other BMPs. BMP-7 may therefore function in early embryogenesis to antagonize activin signals and potentiate BMP signals. We propose that BMP heterodimers convey signals for ventral mesoderm induction and patterning in Xenopus development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activins / physiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / chemistry
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / physiology*
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • Dimerization
  • Embryonic Induction / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Mesoderm / drug effects*
  • Microinjections
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Multimerization
  • RNA, Messenger / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta*
  • Xenopus Proteins / chemistry
  • Xenopus Proteins / genetics
  • Xenopus Proteins / physiology*
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • DNA, Complementary
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Xenopus Proteins
  • bmp4 protein, Xenopus
  • bmp7.1 protein, Xenopus
  • Activins