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Calcif Tissue Int. 2005 Jan;76(1):39-49. Epub 2004 Oct 14.

Skeletal phenotype of growing transgenic mice that express a function-perturbing form of beta1 integrin in osteoblasts.

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Life Sciences Division, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 94035, USA.


Skeletal modeling entails the deposition of large amounts of extracellular matrix (ECM) to form structures tailored to withstand increasing mechanical loads during rapid growth. Specific ECM molecules bind to integrin receptors on the cell surface, thereby triggering a cascade of signaling events that affect critical cell functions. To evaluate the role of integrins during skeletal growth, transgenic mice were engineered to express a function-perturbing fragment of beta1 integrin consisting of the transmembrane domain and cytoplasmic tail under the control of the osteocalcin promoter (TG mice). Thus, transgene expression was targeted to mature cells of the osteoblast lineage, and herein we show that cultured cells resembling osteocytes from 90-day-old TG mice display impaired adhesion to collagen I, a ligand for beta1 integrin. To determine the influence of beta1 integrin on bones that are responsible for providing structural support during periods of rapid growth, we examined the phenotype of the appendicular skeleton in TG mice compared to wild type (WT) mice. According to radiographs, bones from mice of both genotypes between 14 and 90 days of age appeared similar in gross structure and density, although proximal tibiae from 35-90 days old TG mice were less curved than those of WT mice (72-92% TG/WT). Although there were only mild and transient differences in absolute bone mass and strength, once normalized to body mass, the tibial dry mass (79.1% TG/WT females), ash mass (78.5% TG/WT females), and femoral strength in torsion (71.6% TG/WT females) were reduced in TG mice compared to WT mice at 90 days of age. Similar effects of genotype on bone mass and curvature were observed in 1-year-old retired breeders, indicating that these phenotypic differences between TG and WT mice were stable well into adulthood. Effects of genotype on histomorphometric indices of cancellous bone turnover were minimal and evident only transiently during growth, but when present they demonstrated differences in osteoblast rather than osteoclast parameters. Together, these results suggest that integrin signals generated during growth enhance the acquisition of a skeletal mass, structure, and strength to withstand the mechanical loads generated by weight-bearing.

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