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J Bone Miner Res. 2003 Jul;18(7):1167-76.

Increased bone formation in mice lacking plasminogen activators.

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Laboratorium of Experimental Medicine and Endocrinology, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


Plasminogen activators tPA and uPA are involved in tissue remodeling, but their role in bone growth is undefined. Mice lacking tPA and uPA show increased bone formation and bone mass. The noncollagenous components of bone matrix are also increased, probably from defective degradation. This study underlines the importance of controlled bone matrix remodeling for normal endochondral ossification.


Proteolytic pathways are suggested to play a role in endochondral ossification. To elucidate the involvement of the plasminogen activators tPA and uPA in this process, we characterized the long bone phenotype in mice deficient in both tPA and uPA (tPA-/-:uPA-/-).


Bones of 2- to 7-day-old tPA-/-:uPA-/- and wild-type (WT) mice were studied using bone histomorphometry, electron microscopy analysis, and biochemical assessment of bone matrix components. Cell-mediated degradation of metabolically labeled bone matrix, osteoblast proliferation, and osteoblast differentiation, both at the gene and protein level, were studied in vitro using cells derived from both genotypes.


Deficiency of the plasminogen activators led to elongation of the bones and to increased bone mass (25% more trabecular bone in the proximal tibial metaphysis), without altering the morphology of the growth plate. In addition, the composition of bone matrix was modified in plasminogen activator deficient mice, because an increased amount of proteoglycans (2x), osteocalcin (+45%), and fibronectin (+36%) was detected. Matrix degradation assays showed that plasminogen activators, by generating plasmin, participate in osteoblast-mediated degradation of the noncollagenous components of bone matrix. In addition, proliferation of primary osteoblasts derived from plasminogen activator-deficient mice was increased by 35%. Finally, osteoblast differentiation and formation of a mineralized bone matrix were enhanced in osteoblast cultures derived from tPA-/-:uPA-/- mice.


The data presented indicate the importance of the plasminogen system in degradation of the noncollagenous components of bone matrix and suggest that the accumulation of these proteins in bone matrix--as occurs during plasminogen activator deficiency--may in turn stimulate osteoblast function, resulting in increased bone formation.

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