BMP signaling in the nephron progenitor niche.

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Publication Date



Department of Molecular Medicine, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

Journal Title

Pediatric nephrology (Berlin, Germany)

MeSH Headings

Animals, Bone Morphogenetic Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Humans, Nephrons, Signal Transduction, Stem Cell Niche, Stem Cells


Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play diverse roles in embryonic kidney development, regulating essential aspects of both ureteric bud and nephron development. In this review, we provide an overview of reported expression patterns and functions of BMP signaling components within the nephrogenic zone or nephron progenitor niche of the developing kidney. Reported in situ hybridization results are relatively challenging to interpret and sometimes conflicting. Comparing these with high-resolution microarray gene expression data available in Gudmap, we propose a consensus gene expression pattern indicating that essential components of both the Smad-mediated pathway and the Smad-independent MAPK pathways are expressed in the nephron progenitor cell compartment and may be activated by BMPs, but that cortical interstitium may only be able to respond to BMPs through mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. Localization of phosphorylated Smad transcription factors and studies of a BMP reporter mouse strain however indicate limited transcriptional responsiveness to Smad-mediated signaling in cap mesenchyme. An overview of genetic inactivation, organ culture, and primary cell studies indicates that BMP signaling may elicit two important biological outcomes in the nephrogenic zone: survival of the cap mesenchyme, and the physical segregation of interstitial and progenitor cell compartments. Ongoing studies using a novel primary cell system that establishes the nephrogenic zone ex vivo are pursuing the concept that the balance between Smad-mediated and Smad-independent responses to BMP ligand may underlie these distinct outcomes.



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