SMOC can act as both an antagonist and an expander of BMP signaling.

PMID 28323621


The matricellular protein SMOC (Secreted Modular Calcium binding protein) is conserved phylogenetically from vertebrates to arthropods. We showed previously that SMOC inhibits bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling downstream of its receptor via activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. In contrast, the most prominent effect of the Drosophila orthologue, pentagone (pent), is expanding the range of BMP signaling during wing patterning. Using SMOC deletion constructs we found that SMOC-∆EC, lacking the extracellular calcium binding (EC) domain, inhibited BMP2 signaling, whereas SMOC-EC (EC domain only) enhanced BMP2 signaling. The SMOC-EC domain bound HSPGs with a similar affinity to BMP2 and could expand the range of BMP signaling in an in vitro assay by competition for HSPG-binding. Together with data from studies in vivo we propose a model to explain how these two activities contribute to the function of Pent in Drosophila wing development and SMOC in mammalian joint formation.