Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), a class of cytokines belonging to the transforming growth factor-β superfamily, have been shown to play a wide variety of roles during development including those in the central nervous system. We here report that BMP2, BMP4 and BMP7 have an equivalent potential to inhibit neurogenesis and concomitantly induce astrocytogenesis of mouse fetal neuroepithelial cells. We further show that these BMPs activate a promoter of the gene for negative helix-loop-helix (HLH) factor, Id1, which is known to inhibit the function of such neurogenic transcription factors as Mashl and neurogenin. These results suggest that BMP2, BMP4 and BMP7 alternate the fate of neuroepithelial cells from neuronal type to astrocytic one via a common mechanism involving negative HLH factor.
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