Spatial patterns of heterotopic ossification in fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva correlate with anatomic temperature gradients.Bone. 2021 Apr 27; 149:115978.BONE
Progressive heterotopic ossification (HO) is a hallmark of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP); however, this tissue transformation is not random. Rather, we noticed that HO in FOP progresses in well-defined but inexplicable spatial and temporal patterns that correlate precisely with infrared thermographs of the human body. FOP is caused by gain-of-function mutations in Activin A receptor type I (ACVR1/ALK2), a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I receptor kinase. As with all enzymes, the activity of ACVR1 is temperature-dependent. We hypothesized that connective tissue progenitor cells that express the common heterozygous ACVR1R206H mutation (FOP CTPCs) exhibit a dysregulated temperature response compared to control CTPCs and that the temperature of FOP CTPCs that initiate and sustain HO at various anatomic sites determines, in part, the anatomic distribution of HO in FOP. We compared BMP pathway signaling at a range of physiologic temperatures in primary CTPCs isolated from FOP patients (n = 3) and unaffected controls (n = 3) and found that BMP pathway signaling and resultant chondrogenesis were amplified in FOP CTPCs compared to control CTPCs (p < 0.05). We conclude that the anatomic distribution of HO in FOP may be due, in part, to a dyregulated temperature response in FOP CTPCs that reflect anatomic location. While the association of temperature gradients with spatial patterns of HO in FOP does not demonstrate causality, our findings provide a paradigm for the physiologic basis of the anatomic distribution of HO in FOP and unveil a novel therapeutic target that might be exploited for this disabling condition.