Nuclear accumulation of Smad complexes occurs only after the midblastula transition in Xenopus

Yasushi Saka, Anja I. Hagemann, Olaf Piepenburg, James C. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Activin and the Nodal-related proteins induce mesendodermal tissues during Xenopus development. These signals act through specific receptors to cause the phosphorylation, at their carboxyl termini, of Smad2 and Smad3. The phosphorylated Smad proteins form heteromeric complexes with Smad4 and translocate into the nucleus to activate the transcription, after the midblastula transition, of target genes such as Xbra and goosecoid (gsc). In this paper we use bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) to study complex formation between Smad proteins both in vivo and in response to exogenous proteins. The technique has allowed us to detect Smad2-Smad4 heteromeric interactions during normal Xenopus development and Smad2 and Smad4 homo- and heteromers in isolated Xenopus blastomeres. Smad2-Smad2 and Smad2-Smad4 complexes accumulate rapidly in the nuclei of responding cells following Activin treatment, whereas Smad4 homomeric complexes remain cytoplasmic. When cells divide, Smad2-Smad4 complexes associate with chromatin, even in the absence of ligand. Our observation that Smad2-Smad4 complexes accumulate in the nucleus only after the midblastula transition, irrespective of the stage at which cells were treated with Activin, may shed light on the mechanisms of developmental timing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4209-4218
Number of pages10
Issue number23
Early online date24 Oct 2007
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • activins
  • animals
  • blastula
  • cell nucleus
  • egg yolk
  • embryo, nonmammalian
  • female
  • mutagenesis, site-directed
  • ovum
  • polymerase chain reaction
  • RNA, messenger
  • smad proteins
  • smad2 protein
  • smad3 protein
  • smad4 protein
  • xenopus
  • xenopus proteins


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