Bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) and retinoic acid are important for normal development of the inner ear, but whether they are linked mechanistically is not known. BMP4 antagonists disrupt semicircular canal formation, as does exposure to retinoic acid. We demonstrate that retinoic acid directly down-regulates BMP4 transcription in a mouse inner ear-derived cell line, and we identify a novel promoter in the second intron of the BMP4 gene that is a target of this regulation both in the cell line and in the mouse embryonic inner ear in vivo. The importance of this down-regulation is demonstrated in chicken embryos by showing that the retinoic acid effect on semicircular canal development can be overcome by exogenous BMP4
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