Bmp induces osteoblast differentiation through both Smad4 and mTORC1 signaling

Courtney M. Karner, Seung Yon Lee, Fanxin Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


The bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) family of secreted molecules has been extensively studied in the context of osteoblast differentiation. However, the intracellular signaling cascades that mediate the osteoblastogenic function of Bmp have not been fully elucidated. By profiling mRNA expression in the bone marrow mesenchymal progenitor cell line ST2, we discover that BMP2 induces not only genes commonly associated with ossification and mineralization but also genes important for general protein synthesis. We define the two groups of genes as mineralization related versus protein anabolism signatures of osteoblasts. Although it induces the expression of several Wnt genes, BMP2 activates the osteogenic program largely independently of de novo Wnt secretion. Remarkably, although Smad4 is necessary for the activation of the mineralization-related genes, it is dispensable for BMP2 to induce the protein anabolism signature, which instead critically depends on the transcription factor Atf4. Upstream of Atf4, BMP2 activates mTORC1 to stimulate protein synthesis, resulting in an endoplasmic reticulum stress response mediated by Perk. Thus, Bmp signaling induces osteoblast differentiation through both Smad4- and mTORC1-dependent mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00253
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Atf4
  • Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs)
  • ER stress
  • MTOR
  • MTORC1
  • Mineralization
  • Osteoblast
  • Perk
  • Protein anabolism
  • Smad4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bmp induces osteoblast differentiation through both Smad4 and mTORC1 signaling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this