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Transcription of BMPs and their antagonists in precise spatiotemporal patterns is essential for proper skeletal development, maturation, maintenance, and repair. Nevertheless, transcriptional activity of these molecules in skeletal tissues beyond embryogenesis has not been well characterized. In this study, we used several transgenic reporter mouse lines to define the transcriptional activity of two potent BMP ligands, Bmp2 and Bmp4, and their antagonist, Noggin, in the postnatal skeleton. At 3 to 4 weeks of age, Bmp4 and Noggin reporter activity was readily apparent in most cells of the osteogenic or chondrogenic lineages, respectively, whereas Bmp2 reporter activity was strongest in terminally differentiated cells of both lineages. By 5 to 6 months, activity of the reporters had generally abated; however, the Noggin and Bmp2 reporters remained remarkably active in articular chondrocytes and persisted there indefinitely. We further found that endogenous Bmp2, Bmp4, and Noggin transcript levels in postnatal bone and cartilage mirrored the activity of their respective reporters in these tissues. Finally, we found that the activity of the Bmp2, Bmp4, and Noggin reporters in bone and cartilage at 3 to 4 weeks could be recapitulated in both osteogenic and chondrogenic culture models. These results reveal that Bmp2, Bmp4, and Noggin transcription persists to varying degrees in skeletal tissues postnatally, with each gene exhibiting its own cell type-specific pattern of activity. Illuminating these patterns and their dynamics will guide future studies aimed at elucidating both the causes and consequences of aberrant BMP signaling in the postnatal skeleton.
© 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.