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J Biol Chem. 2001 Aug 3;276(31):29028-36. Epub 2001 Jun 6.

Bone morphogenetic protein-2 promotes osteoblast apoptosis through a Smad-independent, protein kinase C-dependent signaling pathway.

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  • 1Laboratory of Osteoblast Biology and Pathology, INSERM U 349, Affiliated CNRS, Lariboisière Hospital, 75475 Cedex 10 Paris, France.


Bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), a member of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) family, regulates osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Here we show a novel function of BMP-2 in human osteoblasts and identify a signaling pathway involved in this function. BMP-2 promotes apoptosis in primary human calvaria osteoblasts and in immortalized human neonatal calvaria osteoblasts, as shown by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling analysis. In contrast, TGF-beta 2 inhibits apoptosis in human osteoblasts. Studies of the mechanisms of action showed that BMP-2 increases the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio, whereas TG beta-2 has a negative effect. Moreover, BMP-2 increases the release of mitochondrial cytochrome c to the cytosol. Consistent with these results, BMP-2 increases caspase-9 and caspase-3, -6, and -7 activity, and an anti-caspase-9 agent suppresses BMP-2-induced apoptosis. Overexpression of dominant-negative Smad1 effectively blocks BMP-2-induced expression of the osteoblast transcription factor Runx2 but not the activation of caspases or apoptosis induced by BMP-2, indicating that the Smad1 signaling pathway is not involved in the BMP-2-induced apoptosis. The proapoptotic effect of BMP-2 is PKC-dependent, because BMP-2 increases PKC activity, and the selective PKC inhibitor calphostin C blocks the BMP-2-induced increased Bax/Bcl-2, caspase activity, and apoptosis. In contrast, the cAMP-dependent protein kinase A inhibitor H89, the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580, and the MEK inhibitor PD-98059 have no effect. The results show that BMP-2 uses a Smad-independent, PKC-dependent pathway to promote apoptosis via a Bax/Bcl-2 and cytochrome c-caspase-9-caspase-3, -6, -7 cascade in human osteoblasts.

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