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Dev Biol. 1999 May 15;209(2):298-307.

Ectopic Msx2 overexpression inhibits and Msx2 antisense stimulates calvarial osteoblast differentiation.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut, 06030, USA.


Msx2 is believed to play a role in regulating bone development, particularly in sutures of cranial bone. In this study we investigated the effects of retroviral-mediated overexpression of Msx2 mRNA, in both sense and antisense orientations, on primary cultured chick calvarial osteoblasts. Unregulated overexpression of sense mRNA produced high levels of Msx2 protein throughout the culture period, preventing the expected fall as the cells differentiate. The continued high expression of Msx2 prevented osteoblastic differentiation and mineralization of the extracellular matrix. In contrast, expression of antisense Msx2 RNA decreased proliferation and accelerated differentiation. In other studies, we showed that the Msx2 promoter was widely expressed during the proliferative phase of mouse calvarial osteoblast cultures but was preferentially downregulated in osteoblastic nodules. These results support a model in which Msx2 prevents differentiation and stimulates proliferation of cells at the extreme ends of the osteogenic fronts of the calvariae, facilitating expansion of the skull and closure of the suture.

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