Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare disabling disease characterized by heterotopic ossification for which there is currently no treatment available. FOP has been linked recently to a heterozygous R206H mutation in the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor activin receptor-like kinase 2 (ALK2). Expression of the mutant ALK2-R206H receptor (FOP-ALK2) results in increased phosphorylation of the downstream Smad1 effector proteins and elevated basal BMP-dependent transcriptional reporter activity, indicating that FOP-ALK2 is constitutively active. FOP-ALK2-induced transcriptional activity could be blocked by overexpressing either of the inhibitory Smads, Smad6 or -7, or by treatment with the pharmacological BMP type I receptor inhibitor dorsomorphin. However, in contrast to wild-type ALK2, FOP-ALK2 is not inhibited by the negative regulator FKBP12. Mesenchymal cells expressing the FOP-ALK2 receptor are more sensitive to undergoing BMP-induced osteoblast differentiation and mineralization. In vivo bone formation was assessed by loading human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) expressing the ALK2-R206H receptor onto calcium phosphate scaffolds and implantation in nude mice. Compared with control cells FOP-ALK2-expressing cells induced increased bone formation. Taken together, the R206H mutation in ALK2 confers constitutive activity to the mutant receptor, sensitizes mesenchymal cells to BMP-induced osteoblast differentiation, and stimulates new bone formation. We have generated an animal model that can be used as a stepping stone for preclinical studies aimed at inhibiting the heterotopic ossification characteristic of FOP.
- Bone morphogenetic protein
- Ectopic bone formation
- Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
- Osteoblast differentiation