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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2007 Oct;120(5):1137-47.

Dihydrotestosterone stimulates proliferation and differentiation of fetal calvarial osteoblasts and dural cells and induces cranial suture fusion.

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Division of Plastic Surgery and Pediatric General, The Children's Institute for Surgical Science, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA 19104-4399, USA.



The higher prevalence of metopic and sagittal suture synostosis in male infants suggests a role for androgens in early craniofacial development. These experiments characterize the influence of androgen stimulation on growth and differentiation of fetal dural and calvarial bone cells and on cranial suture fusion.


Primary murine fetal (E18) dural cells and calvarial osteoblasts were isolated and cultured. Cells were treated for 48 hours with 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (0 to 1000 nM). Cell proliferation was examined by nonradioactive proliferation assay; mRNA expression of alkaline phosphatase, transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1, and the bone matrix proteins osteopontin, osteocalcin, and type 1 collagen was determined by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. In separate experiments, intact fetal calvariae were grown in tissue culture with 10 nM 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone for 7 and 14 days and then examined histologically.


Androgen stimulation at 5 nM increased proliferation of fetal dural cells by 46.0 percent and of fetal calvarial osteoblasts by 20.5 percent. Dural expression of osteopontin, osteocalcin, and type 1 collagen was enhanced by 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone, as was that of TGF-beta1 and alkaline phosphatase. Androgen stimulation increased calvarial osteoblast expression of alkaline phosphatase and TGF-beta1 but induced little change in expression of osteocalcin, osteopontin, and type 1 collagen. In tissue culture, 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone stimulated osteoid formation and fusion of sagittal sutures.


Androgen stimulation of dural cells and osteoblasts isolated from fetal calvaria promotes cell proliferation and osteoblastic differentiation and can induce cranial suture fusion. These results suggest that sex steroid hormone signaling may stimulate sutural osteogenesis by means of osteodifferentiation of dural cells, thus explaining the male prevalence of nonsyndromic craniosynostosis.

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