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BACKGROUND: Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) regulate adipogenesis but it is not clear whether they influence regional adipose tissue (AT) development in humans. OBJECTIVE: To characterise BMP2 expression, BMP2-SMAD1/5/8 signalling, and BMP2's potential effect on proliferation and adipogenesis in human subcutaneous abdominal and gluteal AT and its constituent preadipocytes. METHODS: BMP2 expression was measured in whole AT and immortalised preadipocytes via qPCR and Western blot; secreted/circulating BMP2 was measured by ELISA. The effect of BMP2 on preadipocyte proliferation was evaluated using a fluorescent assay. BMP2's effect on adipogenesis in immortalised preadipocytes was determined via qPCR of adipogenic markers and cellular triacylglycerol (TAG) accumulation. BMP2-SMAD1/5/8 signalling was assessed in immortalised preadipocytes via Western blot and qPCR of ID1 expression. RESULTS: BMP2 was expressed and released by abdominal and gluteal AT and preadipocytes. Exogenous BMP2 dose dependently promoted adipogenesis in abdominal preadipocytes only; 50 ng/ml BMP2 increased PPARG2 expression (10-fold compared to vehicle, p < 0.001) and TAG accumulation (3-fold compared to vehicle; p < 0.001). BMP2 stimulated SMAD1/5/8 phosphorylation and ID1 expression in abdominal and gluteal preadipocytes but this was blocked by 500 nM K02288, a type 1 BMP receptor inhibitor (p < 0.001). Co-administration of 500 nM K02288 also inhibited the pro-adipogenic effect of 50 ng/ml BMP2 in abdominal cells; >90% inhibition of TAG accumulation (p < 0.001) and ~50% inhibition of PPARG2 expression (p < 0.001). The endogenous iron regulator erythroferrone reduced BMP2-SMAD1/5/8 signalling by ~30% specifically in subcutaneous abdominal preadipocytes (p < 0.01), suggesting it plays a role in restricting the expansion of the body's largest AT depot during energy deficiency. Additionally, a waist-hip ratio-increasing common polymorphism near BMP2 is an eQTL associated with ~15% lower BMP2 expression in abdominal and gluteal AT (p < 0.05) as well as altered adipocyte size in male abdominal AT (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: These data implicate BMP2-SMAD1/5/8 signalling in depot-specific preadipocyte development and abdominal AT expansion in humans.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Obes (Lond)

Publication Date





2458 - 2468


Adipocytes, Adipogenesis, Adipose Tissue, Adult, Aged, Body Mass Index, Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Signal Transduction, Smad Proteins, Receptor-Regulated