In vertebrates and invertebrates, Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) act in a morphogen gradient to pattern the dorsoventral (DV) axis in a concentration dependent manner. The shape of the BMP morphogen gradient is critical: precise amounts of BMP signaling at discrete DV positions specify distinct cell fates. In the zebrafish embryo, high BMP signaling specifies ventral cell fates, intermediate levels specify lateral fates, and no BMP signaling results in dorsal fates. The BMP signaling gradient shape is continually regulated from blastula through gastrula stages, as DV tissues are progressively patterned from anterior to posterior. Since BMPs also pattern the neural tube and developing limbs, and act in the progression of cancer, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, understanding the spatiotemporal mechanisms that shape the BMP gradient in DV patterning will provide paradigms for BMP function and its modulation in these other contexts. The goal of this proposal is to determine how the BMP signaling gradient is shaped during gastrulation. We can determine the shape of the BMP signaling gradient through a quantitative immunofluorescence assay of nuclear phosphorylated Smad1/5, a direct readout of active BMP signaling. The initial BMP signaling gradient is generated at mid-blastula stages by Chordin (Chd), a key extracellular antagonist that binds and inhibits BMP ligands from signaling. Importantly, we observe that the gradient shape at the start of gastrulation differs fro its shape during late gastrulation. Since Chd activity is required throughout gastrulation, it is vtal to determine how Chd is regulated in time and space. Chd activity is modulated by two key classes of proteins: (i) the homologous metalloproteases Bmp1a and Tolloid (Tld), which cleave and inactivate Chd, and (ii) the metalloprotease inhibitor Sizzled (Szl). How loss of function of both metalloproteases affects the BMP gradient spatially and temporally will be investigated. Additionally, how loss of Szl function affects the gradient will be examined. It is hypothesized that Bmp1a/Tld inhibit Chd without restraint early in gastrulation to generate the BMP signaling gradient, while Szl is critical to inhibit Bmp1a/Tld during the latter half of gastrulation to steeen the BMP signaling gradient. In this proposal, the temporal requirement for Bmp1a/Tld and Szl, how each protein affects the shape of the BMP signaling gradient, and the effective ranges of Tld and Szl protein activity will be determined. Together, these experiments will elucidate how the spatiotemporal regulation of metalloprotease activity correctly shapes the BMP signaling gradient to pattern the DV axis of the developing zebrafish embryo.

Public Health Relevance

The Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) and TGF family of secreted signaling molecules directs the development of multiple organs and tissue types and is implicated in congenital and adult diseases. Ongoing investigations suggest the potential for modulating BMP and TGF signaling in the treatment of disorders as diverse as kidney disease, pulmonary hypertension, pancreatic, colorectal, and other cancers, and in medical applications such as orthopedics, endodontics, bone regeneration, and tissue engineering. To understand how BMP signaling can generate diverse cellular responses in a myriad of biological contexts and affect disease, it is imperative to understand the mechanism by which BMPs signal and how these signals are regulated in tissue development, as will be studied here.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Sledjeski, Darren D
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University of Pennsylvania
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Tuazon, Francesca B; Mullins, Mary C (2015) Temporally coordinated signals progressively pattern the anteroposterior and dorsoventral body axes. Semin Cell Dev Biol 42:118-33