Kim,H.J., Rice,D.P., Kettunen,P.J., and, Thesleff,I.
FGF-, BMP- and Shh-mediated signalling pathways in the regulation of cranial suture morphogenesis and calvarial bone development.
Development 125(7):1241-1251 (1998).
The development of calvarial bones is tightly co-ordinated with the growth of the brain and needs harmonious interactions between different tissues within the calvarial sutures. Premature fusion of cranial sutures, known as craniosynostosis, presumably involves disturbance of these interactions. Mutations in the homeobox gene Msx2 as well as the FGF receptors cause human craniosynostosis syndromes. Our histological analysis of mouse calvarial development demonstrated morphological differences in the sagittal suture between embryonic and postnatal stages. In vitro culture of mouse calvaria showed that embryonic, but not postnatal, dura mater regulated suture patency. We next analysed by in situ hybridisation the expression of several genes, which are known to act in conserved signalling pathways, in the sagittal suture during embryonic (E15-E18) and postnatal stages (P1-P6). Msx1 and Msx2 were expressed in the sutural mesenchyme and the dura mater. FGFR2(BEK), as well as Bmp2 and Bmp4, were intensely expressed in the osteogenic fronts and Bmp4 also in the mesenchyme of the sagittal suture and in the dura mater. Fgf9 was expressed throughout the calvarial mesenchyme, the dura mater, the developing bones and the overlying skin, but Fgf4 was not detected in these tissues. Interestingly, Shh and Ptc started to be expressed in patched pattern along the osteogenic fronts at the end of embryonic development and, at this time, the expression of Bmp4 and sequentially those of Msx2 and Bmp2 were reduced, and they also acquired patched expression patterns. The expression of Msx2 in the dura mater disappeared after birth.

FGF and BMP signalling pathways were further examined in vitro, in E15 mouse calvarial explants. Interestingly, beads soaked in FGF4 accelerated sutural closure when placed on the osteogenic fronts, but had no such effect when placed on the mid-sutural mesenchyme. BMP4 beads caused an increase in tissue volume both when placed on the osteogenic fronts and on the mid-sutural area, but did not effect suture closure. BMP4 induced the expression of both Msx1 and Msx2 genes in sutural tissue, while FGF4 induced only Msx1. We suggest that the local application of FGF on the osteogenic fronts accelerating suture closure in vitro, mimics the pathogenesis of human craniosynostosis syndromes in which mutations in the FGF receptor genes apparently cause constitutive activation of the receptors. Taken together, our data suggest that conserved signalling pathways regulate tissue interactions during suture morphogenesis and intramembranous bone formation of the calvaria and that morphogenesis of mouse sagittal suture is controlled by different molecular mechanisms during the embryonic and postnatal stages. Signals from the dura mater may regulate the maintenance of sutural patency prenatally, whereas signals in the osteogenic fronts dominate after birth.

Last edited 10.12.2004 by P.N.