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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 29;279(44):45969-79. Epub 2004 Aug 9.

Essential role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in cathepsin K gene expression during osteoclastogenesis through association of NFATc1 and PU.1.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Saitama Medical School, Saitama, Japan.


The receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) induces various osteoclast-specific marker genes during osteoclast differentiation mediated by mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase cascades. However, the results of transcriptional programming of an osteoclast-specific cathepsin K gene are inconclusive. Here we report the regulatory mechanisms of RANKL-induced cathepsin K gene expression during osteoclastogenesis in a p38 MAP kinase-dependent manner. The reporter gene analysis with sequential 5'-deletion constructs of the cathepsin K gene promoter indicates that limited sets of the transcription factors such as NFATc1, PU.1, and microphthalmia transcription factor indeed enhance synergistically the gene expression when overexpressed in RAW264 cells. In addition, the activation of p38 MAP kinase is required for the maximum enhancement of the gene expression. RANKL-induced NFATc1 forms a complex with PU.1 in nuclei of osteoclasts following the nuclear accumulation of NFATc1 phosphorylated by the activated p38 MAP kinase. These results suggest that the RANKL-induced cathepsin K gene expression is cooperatively regulated by the combination of the transcription factors and p38 MAP kinase in a gradual manner.

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