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J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Apr;18(4):751-9.

Fibroblast growth factors lead to increased Msx2 expression and fusion in calvarial sutures.

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Department of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry, The University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1078, USA.


Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the skull bones at the sutures, represents a disruption to the coordinated growth and development of the expanding brain and calvarial vault and is the second most common birth defect that affects the craniofacial complex. Mutations in the human homeobox-containing gene, Msx2, have been shown to cause Boston type craniosynostosis, and we have shown that overexpression of Msx2 leads to craniosynostosis in mice. Activating mutations in fibroblast growth factor (FGF) receptors are thought to cause craniosynostosis in Crouzon, Apert, Jackson-Weiss, Beare-Stevenson, and Muenke syndromes. To mimic activated signaling by mutated FGF receptors, we used heparin acrylic beads to deliver FGF ligands to mouse calvaria and demonstrated increased Msx2, Runx2, Bsp, and Osteocalcin gene expression, decreased cell proliferation, and suture obliteration and fusion. FGF2 elicited the greatest increase in Msx2 expression, and FGF1 was most likely to cause suture obliteration and fusion. Of the three sutures studied, the coronal suture exhibited the greatest increase in Msx2 expression and was the most likely to undergo obliteration and fusion. These results are intriguing because the coronal suture is the most commonly affected suture in syndromic craniosynostosis. These results suggest that Msx2 is a downstream target of FGF receptor signaling and that increased FGF signaling leads to osteogenic differentiation by sutural mesenchyme in mouse calvaria. These results are consistent with the hypotheses that increased Msx2 expression and activated signaling by mutated FGF receptors lead to craniosynostosis.

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