Much evidence suggests that "developmental regulator" genes, like those encoding transcription factors and signaling molecules, are typically controlled by many modular, tissue-specific cis-regulatory elements that function during embryogenesis. These elements are often far from gene coding regions and promoters. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) drive many processes in development relating to organogenesis and differentiation. Four BMP family members, Bmp2, Bmp4, Bmp5, and Gdf6, are now known to be under the control of distant cis-regulatory elements. BMPs are thus firmly placed in the category of genes prone to this phenomenon. The analysis of distant BMP regulatory elements has provided insight into the many pleiotropic effects of BMP genes, and underscores the biological importance of non-coding genomic DNA elements.