Regulation of avian cardiac myogenesis by activin/TGFβ and bone morphogenetic proteins

Andrea N. Ladd, Tatiana A. Yatskievych, Parker B. Antin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Previous studies have identified two signaling interactions regulating cardiac myogenesis in avians, a hypoblast-derived signal acting on epiblast and mediated by activin or a related molecule and an endoderm-derived signal acting on mesoderm and involving BMP-2. In this study, experiments were designed to investigate the temporal relationship between these signaling events and the potential role of other TGFβ superfamily members in regulating early steps of heart muscle development. We find that while activin or TGFβ can potently induce cardiac myogenesis in pregastrula epiblast, they show no capacity to convert noncardiogenic mesoderm toward a myocardial phenotype. Conversely, BMP-2 or BMP-4, in combination with FGF-4, can readily induce cardiac myocyte formation in posterior mesoderm, but shows no capacity to induce cardiac myogenesis in epiblast cells. Activin/TGFβ and BMP-2/BMP-4 therefore have distinct and reciprocal cardiac-inducing capacities that mimic the tissues in which they are expressed, the pregastrula hypoblast and anterior lateral endoderm, respectively. Experiments with noggin and follistatin provide additional evidence indicating that BMP signaling lies downstream of an activin/TGFβ signal in the cardiac myogenesis pathway. In contrast to the cardiogenic-inducing capacities of BMP-2/BMP-4 in mesoderm, however, we find that BMP-2 or BMP-4 inhibits cardiac myogenesis prior to stage 3, demonstrating multiple roles for BMPs in mesoderm induction. These and other published studies suggest a signaling cascade in which a hypoblast-derived activin/TGFβ signal is required prior to and during early stages of gastrulation, regulated both spatially and temporally by an interplay between BMPs and their antagonists. Later cardiogenic signals arising from endoderm, and perhaps transiently from ectoderm, and mediated in part by BMPs, act on emerging mesoderm within cardiogenic regions to activate or enhance expression of cardiogenic genes such as GATA and cNkx family members, leading to cardiac myocyte differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-419
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 15 1998


  • Activin
  • Avian
  • BMP-2
  • BMP-4
  • Gastrulation
  • Growth factors
  • Heart
  • Mesoderm induction
  • Specification
  • TGFβ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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