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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Feb 1;97(3):1113-8.

Up-regulation of the chondrogenic Sox9 gene by fibroblast growth factors is mediated by the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Recent experiments have established that Sox9 is required for chondrocyte differentiation. Here, we show that fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) markedly enhance Sox9 expression in mouse primary chondrocytes as well as in C3H10T1/2 cells that express low levels of Sox9. FGFs also strongly increase the activity of a Sox9-dependent chondrocyte-specific enhancer in the gene for collagen type II. Transient transfection experiments using constructs encoding FGF receptors strongly suggested that all FGF receptors, FGFR1-R4, can transduce signals that lead to the increase in Sox9 expression. The increase in Sox9 levels induced by FGF2 was inhibited by a specific mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MAPKK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase/ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitor U0126 in primary chondrocytes. In addition, coexpression of a dual-specificity phosphatase, CL100/MKP-1, that is able to dephosphorylate and inactivate mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) inhibited the FGF2-induced increase in activity of the Sox9-dependent enhancer. Furthermore, coexpression of a constitutively active mutant of MEK1 increased the activity of the Sox9-dependent enhancer in primary chondrocytes and C3H10T1/2 cells, mimicking the effects of FGFs. These results indicate that expression of the gene for the master chondrogenic factor Sox9 is stimulated by FGFs in chondrocytes as well as in undifferentiated mesenchymal cells and strongly suggest that this regulation is mediated by the MAPK pathway. Because Sox9 is essential for chondrocyte differentiation, we propose that FGFs and the MAPK pathway play an important role in chondrogenesis.

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