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Bone. 2010 Nov;47(5):938-47. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Aug 13.

Signaling of extracellular inorganic phosphate up-regulates cyclin D1 expression in proliferating chondrocytes via the Na+/Pi cotransporter Pit-1 and Raf/MEK/ERK pathway.

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Department of Bone and Mineral Research, Osaka Medical Center and Research Institute for Maternal and Child Health, Izumi, Osaka 594-1101, Japan.


As chondrocytes mature, the concentration of inorganic phosphate (Pi) increases in the extracellular milieu. It was demonstrated that the progressive accumulation of Pi started from the proliferative zone and peaked in the hypertrophic zone of growth plate. Although extracellular Pi is reported to be involved in the apoptosis and mineralization of mature chondrocytes, its role in proliferating chondrocytes remains unclear. Here we investigated this role utilizing ATDC5, an established cell model of chondrocytic differentiation. In proliferating ATDC5 cells, we found that the expression of cyclin D1 was up-regulated, and that of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was down-regulated in response to an increase in extracellular Pi within 24h. Moreover, an increase in extracellular Pi-induced activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway, and treatment with a MEK inhibitor PD98059 abolished the effects on the expression of cyclin D1 and ALP, indicating that extracellular Pi regulates the expression of these genes through the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway. Consistent with its up-regulation of cyclin D1 expression, the extracellular Pi facilitated the proliferation of ATDC5 cells. Treatment with phosphonoformic acid (PFA), an inhibitor of sodium/phosphate (Na(+)/Pi) cotransporters, abrogated the activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway and gene expression induced by the increase in extracellular Pi. Knocking down of the type III Na(+)/Pi cotransporter Pit-1 diminished the responsiveness of ATDC5 cells to the increase in extracellular Pi. Interestingly, the increased extracellular Pi induced the phosphorylation of fibroblast growth factor receptor substrate 2α (FRS2α), which was also cancelled by knocking down of the expression of Pit-1. In primary chondrocytes isolated from mouse rib cages as well, increased extracellular Pi induced the phosphorylation of ERK1/2 and alterations in the expression of cyclin D1 and ALP, both of which were abolished by treatment with PFA. These results suggest that signaling by extracellular Pi is mediated by Pit-1 and FRS2α, and leads to activation of the Raf/MEK/ERK pathway and increased expression of cyclin D1, which facilitates the proliferation of immature chondrocytes.

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