Epithelial-mesenchymal interactions are necessary for the normal development of various digestive organs. In chicken proventriculus (glandular stomach), morphogenesis and differentiation of the epithelium depend upon the inductive signals coming from underlying mesenchyme. However, the nature of such signals is still unclear despite extensive analyses carried out using experimental tissue recombinations. In this study we have examined the possible involvement of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) in the formation of stomach glands in the chicken embryo. Analysis of the expression patterns of BMP-2, −4 and −7 showed that these BMPs were present in the proventricular mesenchyme prior to the initiation of the proventricular gland formation. BMP-2 expression, in particular, was restricted to the proventriculus among anterior digestive organs. Virus-mediated BMP-2 overexpression resulted in an increase in the number of glands formed. Moreover, ectopic expression of Noggin, which antagonizes the effect of BMPs, in the proventricular mesenchyme or epithelium, led to the complete inhibition of gland formation, indicating that BMP signals are necessary for the proventricular gland formation. These findings suggest that BMPs are of prime importance as mesenchymal signals for inducing proventricular glands.

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