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J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Apr;18(4):705-15.

In vitro and in vivo synergistic interactions between the Runx2/Cbfa1 transcription factor and bone morphogenetic protein-2 in stimulating osteoblast differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Periodontics, Prevention, and Geriatrics, School of Dentistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1078, USA.


Bone regeneration requires interactions between a number of factors including bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), growth factors, and transcriptional regulators such as Runx2/Cbfal (Runx2). Because each component may provide a unique contribution to the overall osteogenic response, we hypothesized that bone formation may be enhanced by using combinations of complimentary factors. As an initial test of this concept, interactions between BMP2 and Runx2 were examined using adenovirus-based expression vectors (AdCMV-Runx2, AdCMV-BMP2) in the pluripotent C3H10T1/2 cell line. Cells transduced with AdCMV-Runx2 strongly expressed osteoblast markers, such as alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin, but formed only a weakly mineralized extracellular matrix in vitro, whereas cells transduced with AdCMV-BMP2 exhibited higher levels of mineralization, but only expressed low levels of Runx2 and osteocalcin mRNA. Significantly, when cells were transduced with optimal titers of both viruses, osteoblast differentiation was stimulated to levels that were 10-fold greater than those seen with either AdCMV-Runx2 or AdCMV-BMP2 alone. To measure in vivo osteogenic activity, virally transduced cells were subcutaneously implanted into immunodeficient mice. Cells transduced with control virus produced only fibrous tissue while those with AdCMV-Runx2 produced limited amounts of both cartilage and bone. In contrast, cells transduced with either AdCMV-BMP2 alone or AdCMV-BMP2 plus AdCMV-Cbfal generated large ossicles containing cartilage, bone, and a marrow cavity. However, ossification in the AdCMV-BMP2 plus AdCMV-Cbfal group was more extensive in that both mineral content and fractional bone area were greater than that seen in the AdCMV-BMP2 group. Thus, the increased osteoblast differentiation observed with combined adenovirus treatment in vitro is also manifested by increased bone formation in vivo. These results suggest that Runx2 and BMP2 have distinct, but complementary, roles in osteogenesis and that their combined actions may be necessary for optimal bone formation.

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