Open Access Open Badges Research article

Distinct and overlapping gene regulatory networks in BMP- and HDAC-controlled cell fate determination in the embryonic forebrain

Catharina Scholl1, Kathrin Weiβmüller23, Pavlo Holenya1, Maya Shaked-Rabi24, Kerry L Tucker23* and Stefan Wölfl1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology, Heidelberg University, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany

2 Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences, Heidelberg University, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany

3 Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Heidelberg, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany

4 The National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, Institute of Neurology, UCL, London, WC1 N3BG, UK

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BMC Genomics 2012, 13:298  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-298

Published: 2 July 2012



Both bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and histone deacetylases (HDACs) have previously been established to play a role in the development of the three major cell types of the central nervous system: neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. We have previously established a connection between these two protein families, showing that HDACs suppress BMP-promoted astrogliogenesis in the embryonic striatum. Since HDACs act in the nucleus to effect changes in transcription, an unbiased analysis of their transcriptional targets could shed light on their downstream effects on BMP-signaling.


Using neurospheres from the embryonic striatum as an in vitro system to analyze this phenomenon, we have performed microarray expression profiling on BMP2- and TSA-treated cultures, followed by validation of the findings with quantitative RT-PCR and protein analysis. In BMP-treated cultures we first observed an upregulation of genes involved in cell-cell communication and developmental processes such as members of BMP and canonical Wnt signaling pathways. In contrast, in TSA-treated cultures we first observed an upregulation of genes involved in chromatin modification and transcription. Interestingly, we could not record direct changes in the protein levels of canonical members of BMP2 signaling, but we did observe an upregulation of both the transcription factor STAT3 and its active isoform phospho-STAT3 at the protein level.


STAT3 and SMAD1/5/8 interact synergistically to promote astrogliogenesis, and thus we show for the first time that HDACs act to suppress BMP-promoted astrogliogenesis by suppression of the crucial partner STAT3.