Differential compartmentalization of BMP4/NOGGIN requires NOGGIN trans-epithelial transport
Using self-organizing human models of gastrulation, we previously showed that (1) BMP4 initiates the cascade of events leading to gastrulation, (2) BMP4 signal reception is restricted to the basolateral domain, and (3) in a human-specific manner, BMP4 directly induces the expression of NOGGIN. Here, we report the surprising discovery that in human epiblasts, NOGGIN and BMP4 were secreted into opposite extracellular spaces. Interestingly, apically presented NOGGIN could inhibit basally delivered BMP4. Apically imposed microfluidic flow demonstrated that NOGGIN traveled in the apical extracellular space. Our co-localization analysis detailed the endocytotic route that trafficked NOGGIN from the apical space to the basolateral intercellular space where BMP4 receptors were located. This apical-basal transcytosis was indispensable for NOGGIN inhibition. Taken together, the segregation of activator/inhibitor into distinct extracellular spaces challenges classical views of morphogen movement. We propose that the transport of morphogen inhibitors regulates the spatial availability of morphogens during embryogenesis. © 2021 Elsevier Inc.