Section of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. Xuguang.Nie@biomed.uib.no
The BMP signalling pathway is conserved throughout evolution and essential for mammalian embryonic and postnatal development and growth. In the vertebrate head, this signal is involved in the development of a variety of structures and shows divergent roles. During early head development, BMP signalling participates in the induction, formation, determination and migration of the cranial neural crest cells, which give rise to most of the craniofacial structures. Subsequently, it is also important for patterning and formation of facial primordia. During craniofacial skeletogenesis, BMP signalling is an early inductive signal required for committed cell migration, condensation, proliferation and differentiation. Thereafter, BMP signalling maintains regulatory roles in skeletons and skeletal growth centres. For myogenesis, BMP signalling is a negative regulator. Importantly, myostatin has been identified as a key mediator in this process. During palatogenesis, the crucial role of BMP signalling is demonstrated by mouse models with Alk2 or Alk3 (BMP type I receptors) deletion from the neural crest or craniofacial region, in which cleft palate is one of the major anomalies. BMP signalling is also an important participant for tooth development, regulating early tooth morphogenesis and subsequent odontoblast differentiation. In this review these aspects are discussed in detail with a focus on recent advances.