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Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is an ultrarare congenital disease that progresses through intermittent episodes of bone formation at ectopic sites. FOP patients carry heterozygous gene point mutations in activin A receptor type I ACVR1, encoding the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) type I serine/threonine kinase receptor ALK2, termed activin receptor-like kinase (ALK)2. The mutant ALK2 displays neofunctional responses to activin, a closely related BMP cytokine that normally inhibits regular bone formation. Moreover, the mutant ALK2 becomes hypersensitive to BMPs. Both these activities contribute to enhanced ALK2 signalling and endochondral bone formation in connective tissue. Being a receptor with an extracellular ligand-binding domain and intrinsic intracellular kinase activity, the mutant ALK2 is a druggable target. Although there is no approved cure for FOP yet, a number of clinical trials have been recently initiated, aiming to identify a safe and effective treatment for FOP. Among other targeted approaches, several repurposed drugs have shown promising results. In this review, we describe the molecular mechanisms underlying ALK2 mutation-induced aberrant signalling and ectopic bone formation. In addition, we recapitulate existing in vitro models to screen for novel compounds with a potential application in FOP. We summarize existing therapeutic alternatives and focus on repositioned drugs in FOP, at preclinical and clinical stages.

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ALK2, BMP, FOP, TGF-β, activin, bone, repurposed drug, signal transduction