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Bone. 2002 May;30(5):738-45.

Expression of smooth muscle actin in connective tissue cells participating in fracture healing in a murine model.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The role of alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA)-expressing fibroblasts in the contraction of skin wounds has been known for three decades. Recent studies have demonstrated that osteoblasts can also express the gene for this contractile muscle actin isoform and can contract a collagen-glycosaminoglycan analog of extracellular matrix in vitro. These findings provided rationale for the hypothesis that SMA-expressing cells contribute to fracture healing by drawing the bone ends together. To begin to test this hypothesis, immunohistochemistry was employed to evaluate the distribution of connective tissue cells expressing SMA in a mouse model of successful fracture healing. The results demonstrated that the majority of the cells comprising the mesenchymal tissue interposed between the fracture ends contained SMA after 7 and 21 days, supporting the working hypothesis. Most of the osteoblasts lining the surfaces of newly forming bone and the chondrocytes comprising the cartilaginous callus also expressed this contractile actin isoform. The maximal SMA expression extended from 7 to 21 days postfracture. The finding of high levels of SMA expression in connective tissue cells participating in fracture healing suggests that SMA-enabled contraction may be playing a role in the healing process. These results warrant further study of the specific SMA-dependent cell behavior.

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