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Exp Cell Res. 2009 Aug 1;315(13):2231-40. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2009.03.008. Epub 2009 Mar 21.

Sox9 directly promotes Bapx1 gene expression to repress Runx2 in chondrocytes.

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  • 1Department of Systems BioMedicine, National Research Institute of Child Health and Development, Tokyo 157-8535, Japan.


The transcription factor, Sry-related High Mobility Group (HMG) box containing gene 9 (Sox9), plays a critical role in cartilage development by initiating chondrogenesis and preventing the subsequent maturation process called chondrocyte hypertrophy. This suppression mechanism by Sox9 on late-stage chondrogenesis partially results from the inhibition of Runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), the main activator of hypertrophic chondrocyte differentiation. However, the precise mechanism by which Sox9 regulates late chondrogenesis is poorly understood. In the present study, the transcriptional repressor vertebrate homolog of Drosophila bagpipe (Bapx1) was found to be a direct target of Sox9 for repression of Runx2 expression in chondrocytes. We identified a critical Sox9 responsive region in the Bapx1 promoter via a luciferase reporter assay. Analysis by chromatin immunoprecipitation and electrophoretic mobility shift assays indicated that Sox9 physically bound to this region of the Bapx1 promoter. Consistent with the notion that Bapx1 and Sox9 act as negative regulators of chondrocyte hypertrophy by regulating Runx2 expression, transient knockdown of Sox9 or Bapx1 expression by shRNA in chondrocytes increased Runx2 expression, as well as expression of the late chondrogenesis marker, Col10a1. Furthermore, while over-expression of Sox9 decreased Runx2 and Col10a1 expressions, simultaneous transient knockdown of Bapx1 diminished that Sox9 over-expressing effect. Our findings reveal that the molecular pathway modulated by Bapx1 links two major regulators in chondrogenesis, Sox9 and Runx2, to coordinate skeletal formation.

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