Summary: To examine interactions between bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and canonical Wnt signaling during skeletal growth, we ablated Smad4, a key component of the TGF-β-BMP pathway, in Osx1+ cells in mice. We show that loss of Smad4 causes stunted growth, spontaneous fractures and a combination of features seen in osteogenesis imperfecta, cleidocranial dysplasia and Wnt-deficiency syndromes. Bones of Smad4 mutant mice exhibited markers of fully differentiated osteoblasts but lacked multiple collagen-processing enzymes, including lysyl oxidase (Lox), a BMP2-responsive gene regulated by Smad4 and Runx2. Accordingly, the collagen matrix in Smad4 mutants was disorganized, but also hypomineralized. Primary osteoblasts from these mutants did not mineralize in vitro in the presence of BMP2 or Wnt3a, and Smad4 mutant mice failed to accrue new bone following systemic inhibition of the Dickkopf homolog Dkk1. Consistent with impaired biological responses to canonical Wnt, ablation of Smad4 causes cleavage of β-catenin and depletion of the low density lipoprotein receptor Lrp5, subsequent to increased caspase-3 activity and apoptosis. In summary, Smad4 regulates maturation of skeletal collagen and osteoblast survival, and is required for matrix-forming responses to both BMP2 and canonical Wnt.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4974-4984
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • BMP
  • Bone
  • Collagen
  • Osteoblast
  • Smad4
  • Wnt
  • β-catenin


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