Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva


Growth factor signaling pathways are tightly regulated by phosphorylation and include many important kinase targets of interest for drug discovery. Small molecule inhibitors of the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor kinase ALK2 (ACVR1) are needed urgently to treat the progressively debilitating musculoskeletal disease fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). Dorsomorphin analogues, first identified in zebrafish, remain the only BMP inhibitor chemotype reported to date. By screening an assay panel of 250 recombinant human kinases we identified a highly selective 2-aminopyridine-based inhibitor K02288 with in vitro activity against ALK2 at low nanomolar concentrations similar to the current lead compound LDN-193189. K02288 specifically inhibited the BMP-induced Smad pathway without affecting TGF-β signaling and induced dorsalization of zebrafish embryos. Comparison of the crystal structures of ALK2 with K02288 and LDN-193189 revealed additional contacts in the K02288 complex affording improved shape complementarity and identified the exposed phenol group for further optimization of pharmacokinetics. The discovery of a new chemical series provides an independent pharmacological tool to investigate BMP signaling and offers multiple opportunities for pre-clinical development.

Concepts: Protein, ACVR1, Chemistry, Drug discovery, Enzyme inhibitor, Pharmacology, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Signal transduction


Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare disease characterized by progressive ossification of soft tissues, for which there is no effective treatment. Mutations in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor activin receptor-like kinase 2 (ACVR1/ALK2) are the main cause of FOP. We generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from FOP patients with the ALK2 R206H mutation. The mutant ALK2 gene changed differentiation efficiencies of hiPSCs into FOP bone-forming progenitors: endothelial cells (ECs) and pericytes. ECs from FOP hiPSCs showed reduced expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and could transform into mesenchymal cells through endothelial-mesenchymal transition. Increased mineralization of pericytes from FOP hiPSCs could be partly inhibited by the ALK2 kinase inhibitor LDN-212854. Thus, differentiated FOP hiPSCs recapitulate some aspects of the disease phenotype in vitro, and they could be instrumental in further elucidating underlying mechanisms of FOP and development of therapeutic drug candidates.

Concepts: DNA, Stem cells, Gene, Induced pluripotent stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Developmental biology, Stem cell


Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is a rare and as yet untreatable, genetic disorder of progressive extraskeletal ossification, is the most disabling form of heterotopic ossification (HO) in humans and causes skeletal deformities, movement impairment and premature death. Most FOP patients carry an activating mutation in a BMP type I receptor gene, ACVR1(R206H) , that promotes ectopic chondrogenesis and osteogenesis and in turn HO. We showed previously that the retinoic acid receptor γ (RARγ) agonist Palovarotene effectively inhibited HO in injury-induced and genetic mouse models of the disease. Here we report that the drug additionally prevents spontaneous HO, using a novel conditional-on knock-in mouse line carrying the human ACVR1(R206H) mutation for classic FOP. In addition, Palovarotene restored long bone growth, maintained growth plate function, and protected growing mutant neonates when given to lactating mothers. Importantly, Palovarotene maintained joint, limb and body motion, providing clear evidence for its encompassing therapeutic potential as a treatment for FOP. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Cartilage, Skeletal system, Retinoic acid receptor, Intramembranous ossification, Endochondral ossification, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva


The carcass of a stranded southern right whale Eubalaena australis, discovered on the coast of Golfo Nuevo in Península Valdés, Argentina, exhibited extensive orthotopic and heterotopic ossification, osteochondroma-like lesions, and early degenerative joint disease. Extensive soft tissue ossification led to ankylosis of the axial skeleton in a pattern that, in many respects, appeared more similar to a disabling human genetic disorder, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), than to more common skeletal system diseases in cetaceans and other species. This is the first reported case of a FOP-like condition in a marine mammal and raises important questions about conserved mechanisms of orthotopic and heterotopic ossification in this clade.

Concepts: Genetics, Intramembranous ossification, Right whale, Disease, Balaenidae, Cetacea, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Skeletal system


We aimed to investigate the epidemiological determinants, clinical features, and genetic pattern of FOP in our country by evaluating the entire population of patients identified according to a combination of methods. To achieve this, 24 individuals were confirmed as FOP cases, 17 of whom were alive at the end of 2011 (point prevalence=0.36 × 10(-6)). The gender distribution (male/female ratio=13/11) and the concurrent range of ages (from 4 to 53 years; mean ± SD: 30.2 ± 13.8) are in agreement with similar reports. Twenty-one (87.5%) had characteristic congenital malformations of the big toe, and short thumbs were found in 65.2% of cases. In addition, other skeletal malformations such us fusion of the posterior elements of the cervical spine (89.0%), knee osteochondromas (71%), scoliosis (54.5%), and short and broad femoral neck (52.6%) were observed. All had developed mature ossicles of heterotopic bone in typical anatomic and temporal patterns, ranging in number from 1 to 17 (9.5 ± 3.9). Age at appearance of first ossifying lesion varied from 3 months to 15 years. Mean age at diagnosis was 7.3 ± 5.1 years and the average delay in reaching the correct diagnosis after the onset of heterotopic ossification was 2.7 years (range=0-12 years). Biopsy of the pre-osseous lesions was performed in 11 of 20 (55.0%), providing no useful information for the diagnosis of FOP. Seven of 18 (38.9%) reported some hearing loss, and 5 (27.8%) experienced diffuse thinning of the hair or were bald. No patient had relatives with a typical FOP clinical picture. Fourteen of the 16 cases which were genetically investigated displayed the single heterozygous mutation c.617G>A in exon 4 of the ACVR1 gene. One of the two patients who did not present with the canonical ACVR1 mutation showed a heterozygous mutation c.774G>C in exon 5 leading to the substitution of Arginine 258 with a serine. The other patient had a heterozygous c.774G>T substitution in exon 5 leading to the same amino acid change (p.Arg258Ser). These two patients had only nonspecific abnormalities of the great toe, lacked the typical anatomic and developmental pattern of heterotopic ossification, and shared a trend toward uncommon clinical features. These results provide new insight on the epidemiological and clinical traits of FOP, reinforcing the notion of its worldwide homogeneity. The molecular characterization of ACVR1 sequence variation will contribute to the understanding of the genetic profile of this devastating disease in different geographical areas.

Concepts: Amino acid, Toe, Heterotopic ossification, Genetics, DNA, Congenital disorders, Hallux, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva


Whole-genome sequencing studies have recently identified a quarter of cases of the rare childhood brainstem tumor diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma to harbor somatic mutations in ACVR1. This gene encodes the type I bone morphogenic protein receptor ALK2, with the residues affected identical to those that, when mutated in the germline, give rise to the congenital malformation syndrome fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), resulting in the transformation of soft tissue into bone. This unexpected link points toward the importance of developmental biology processes in tumorigenesis and provides an extensive experience in mechanistic understanding and drug development hard-won by FOP researchers to pediatric neurooncology. Here, we review the literature in both fields and identify potential areas for collaboration and rapid advancement for patients of both diseases. Cancer Res; 74(17); 1-6. ©2014 AACR.

Concepts: Mutation, DNA, Protein, Cancer, Congenital disorders, Congenital disorder, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Developmental biology


The bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling pathway has essential functions in development, homeostasis, and in the normal and pathophysiologic remodeling of tissues. Small molecule inhibitors of the BMP receptor kinase family have been useful for probing physiologic functions of BMP signaling in vitro and in vivo, and may have roles in the treatment of BMP-mediated diseases. Here we describe the development of a selective and potent inhibitor of the BMP type I receptor kinases, LDN-212854, which in contrast to previously described BMP receptor kinase inhibitors exhibits nearly 4 orders of selectivity for BMP versus the closely related TGF-β and Activin type I receptors. In vitro, LDN-212854 exhibits some selectivity for ALK2 in preference to other BMP type I receptors, ALK1 and ALK3, which may permit the interrogation of ALK2-mediated signaling, transcriptional activity and function. LDN-212854 potently inhibits heterotopic ossification in an inducible transgenic mutant ALK2 mouse model of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva. These findings represent a significant step towards developing selective inhibitors targeting individual members of the highly homologous BMP type I receptor family. Such inhibitors would provide greater resolution as probes of physiologic function, and improved selectivity against therapeutic targets.

Concepts: Receptor, Hormone, Biology, Enzyme, Enzyme inhibitor, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Protein, Signal transduction


Abstract Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are multifunctional cytokines that belong to the transforming growth factor-β family. BMPs were originally identified based on their unique activity, inducing heterotopic bone formation in skeletal muscle. This unique activity of BMPs is transduced by specific type I and type II transmembrane kinase receptors. Among the downstream pathways activated by these receptors, the transcription factors Smad1/5/8 appear to play critical roles in BMP activity. Smad1/5/8 are phosphorylated at the C-terminal SVS motif by BMP type I receptors and then induce the transcription of early BMP-responsive genes by binding to conserved sequences in their enhancer regions. The linker regions of Smad1/5/8 contain multiple kinase phosphorylation sites, and phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of these sites regulate the transcriptional activity of Smad proteins. Gain-of-function mutations in one BMP type I receptor have been identified in patients with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a rare genetic disorder that is characterized by progressive heterotopic bone formation in the skeletal muscle. Because the mutant receptors activate the Smad signaling pathway even in the absence of BMPs, novel inhibitors for the BMP receptor-Smad axis are being developed to prevent heterotopic bone formation in FOP. Taken together, the data in the literature show that the BMP type I receptor-Smad signaling axis is the critical pathway for the unique activity of BMPs and is a potential therapeutic target for pathological conditions caused by inappropriate BMP activity.

Concepts: Cell signaling, Genetics, Phosphorylation, Gene, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, DNA, Protein, Signal transduction


Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) patients carry a missense mutation in ACVR1 [617G > A (R206H)] that leads to hyperactivation of BMP-SMAD signaling. Contrary to a previous study, here we show that FOP fibroblasts showed an increased efficiency of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) generation. This positive effect was attenuated by inhibitors of BMP-SMAD signaling (Dorsomorphin or LDN1931890) or transducing inhibitory SMADs (SMAD6 or SMAD7). In normal fibroblasts, the efficiency of iPSC generation was enhanced by transducing mutant ACVR1 (617G > A) or SMAD1 or adding BMP4 protein at early times during the reprogramming. In contrast, adding BMP4 at later times decreased iPSC generation. ID genes, transcriptional targets of BMP-SMAD signaling, were critical for iPSC generation. The BMP-SMAD-ID signaling axis suppressed p16/INK4A-mediated cell senescence, a major barrier to reprogramming. These results using patient cells carrying the ACVR1 R206H mutation reveal how cellular signaling and gene expression change during the reprogramming processes.

Concepts: Genetics, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cell biology, Stem cell, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Gene, DNA


Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a disabling genetic disorder of progressive heterotopic ossification. Here, we report a patient with an ultra-rare point mutation [c.619C>G, p.Q207E] located in a codon adjacent to the most common FOP mutation [c.617G>A, p.R206H] of Activin A Receptor, type 1 (ACVR1) and that affects the same intracellular amino acid position in the GS activation domain as the engineered constitutively active (c.a.) variant p.Q207D. It was predicted that both mutations at residue 207 have similar functional effects by introducing a negative charge. Transgenic p.Q207D-c.a. mice have served as a model for FOP heterotopic ossification in several in vivo studies. However, we found that the engineered ACVR1(Q207D-c.a.) is significantly more active than the classic FOP mutation ACVR1(R206H) when overexpressed in chicken limbs and in differentiation assays of chondrogenesis, osteogenesis and myogenesis. Importantly, our studies reveal that the ACVR1(Q207E) resembles the classic FOP receptor in these assays, not the engineered ACVR1(Q207D-c.a.). Notably, reporter gene assays revealed that both naturally occurring FOP receptors (ACVR1(R206H) and ACVR1(Q207E)) were activated by BMP7 and were sensitive to deletion of the ligand binding domain, whereas the engineered ACVR1(Q207D-c.a.) exhibited ligand independent activity. We performed an in silico analysis and propose a structural model for p.Q207D-c.a. that irreversibly relocates the GS domain into an activating position, where it becomes ligand independent. We conclude that the engineered p.Q207D-c.a. mutation has severe limitations as a model for FOP, whereas the naturally occurring mutations p.R206H and p.Q207E facilitate receptor activation, albeit in a reversible manner.

Concepts: Receptor, Gene, Protein, Mutation, In vivo, DNA, Genetics, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva