Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are multi-functional growth factors that belong to the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) superfamily. The roles of BMPs in embryonic development and cellular functions in postnatal and adult animals have been extensively studied in recent years. Signal transduction studies have revealed that Smads 1, 5 and 8 are the immediate downstream molecules of BMP receptors and play a central role in BMP signal transduction. Studies from transgenic and knockout mice and from animals and humans with naturally occurring mutations in BMPs and their signaling molecules have shown that BMP signaling plays critical roles in bone and cartilage development and postnatal bone formation. BMP activities are regulated at different molecular levels. Tissue-specific knockout of a specific BMP ligand, a subtype of BMP receptors or a specific signaling molecule is required to further determine the specific role of a BMP ligand, receptor or signaling molecule in a particular tissue.
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