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Bone. 2001 May;28(5):491-8.

Activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades is involved in regulation of bone morphogenetic protein-2-induced osteoblast differentiation in pluripotent C2C12 cells.

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Bone Diseases Group, Hoechst-Marion-Roussel, 111 route de Noisy, 93230 Romainville, France.


Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2, a member of the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily, is able to induce osteoblastic differentiation of C2C12 cells. Both Smad and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are essential components of the TGF-beta superfamily signaling machinery. Although Smads have been demonstrated to participate in the BMP-2-induced osteoblastic differentiation of C2C12 cells, the role of MAPK has not been addressed. This report shows that BMP-2 activates ERK and p38, but not JNK, in C2C12 cells. Pretreatment of cells with the p38 inhibitor, SB203580, dramatically reduced BMP-2-induced expression of the osteoblast markers alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and osteocalcin (OC). Nevertheless, overexpression of MKK3, a protein kinase that phosphorylates and activates p38, failed to induce ALP or OC expression in the absence of BMP-2, indicating that p38 activation is necessary but not sufficient for the acquisition of the osteoblast phenotype by these cells. Although ALP induction was increased slightly in the presence of PD-98059, a selective inhibitor of the ERK cascade, this compound significantly inhibited both steady-state and BMP-2-induced OC RNA levels. Our results indicate that p38 and ERK cascades play a crucial role in the osteoblast differentiation of C2C12 cells mediated by BMP-2.

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