Gene expression profiles of BMP4, FGF10 and cognate inhibitors, in the skin of foetal Merino sheep, at the time of secondary follicle branching


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Abstract:  The high concentration of secondary branched follicles is a distinctive feature of the Merino sheep. These follicles initiate from 100 days of gestation. Here, we report a transition in abundance of the BMP4 and FGF10 morphogens occurring at this time. At 103 days of gestation, FGF10 gene expression dropped steadily from maximal levels, in a trend that continued until day 143. Conversely, from day 105, BMP4 transcript levels rapidly increased to maximal levels that were maintained until 131 days, before declining. This profile closely matches reported changes in branched follicle numbers, which peak in density at day 134. SPRY4, a known regulator of FGF10, increased to maximal levels concomitant with the fall in FGF10, suggesting a relationship. Levels of the BMP4 inhibitor NOG matched the initial rise of BMP4, with a fivefold spike at 108 days; but consistent with the rise in BMP4, this high level was not sustained.