An atypical canonical BMP signaling pathway regulates msh homeobox 1 (Msx1) expression during odontogenesis [Signal Transduction]

October 1st, 2014 by Yang, G., Yuan, G., Ye, W., Cho, K. W. Y., Chen, Y.

BMP signaling plays an essential role in early tooth development, evidenced by disruption of BMP signaling leads to an early arrested tooth development. Despite being a central mediator of BMP canonical signaling pathway, inactivation of Smad4 in dental mesenchyme does not result in early developmental defects. In the current study we investigated the mechanism of R-Smads and Smad4 in the regulation of the odontogenic gene Msx1 expression in the dental mesenchyme. We showed that the canonical BMP signaling is not operating in the early developing tooth, as assessed by failed activation of the BRE-Gal transgenic allele and the absence of pSmad1/5/8-Smad4 complexes. The absence of pSmad1/5/8-Smad4 complex appeared to be the consequence of saturation of Smad4 by pSmad2/3 in the dental mesenchyme, as knockdown of Smad2/3 or overexpression of Smad4 led to the formation of pSmad1/5/8-Smad4 complexes and activation of canonical BMP signaling in dental mesenchymal cells. We showed that Smad1/5 but not Smad4 are required for BMP-induced expression of Msx1 in dental mesenchymal cells. We further presented evidence that in the absence of Smad4, BMPs are still able to induce pSmad1/5/8 nuclear translocation and their binding to the Msx1 promoter directly in dental mesenchymal cells. Our results demonstrate the functional operation of an atypical canonical BMP signaling (Smad4-independent and Smad1/5/8-dependent) in the dental mesenchyme during early odontogenesis, which may have general implication in the development of other organs.