Activin-dependent signaling in fibro/adipogenic progenitors causes fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is a rare autosomal-dominant disorder characterized by progressive and profoundly disabling heterotopic ossification (HO). Here we show that fibro/adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) are a major cell-of-origin of HO in an accurate genetic mouse model of FOP (Acvr1tnR206H). Targeted expression of the disease-causing type I bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) receptor, ACVR1(R206H), to FAPs recapitulates the full spectrum of HO observed in FOP patients. ACVR1(R206H)-expressing FAPs, but not wild-type FAPs, activate osteogenic signaling in response to activin ligands. Conditional loss of the wild-type Acvr1 allele dramatically exacerbates FAP-directed HO, suggesting that mutant and wild-type ACVR1 receptor complexes compete for activin ligands or type II BMP receptor binding partners. Finally, systemic inhibition of activin A completely blocks HO and restores wild-type-like behavior to transplanted Acvr1R206H/+ FAPs. Understanding the cells that drive HO may facilitate the development of cell-specific therapeutic approaches to inhibit catastrophic bone formation in FOP.