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J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2019 Jul 30. doi: 10.1002/term.2948. [Epub ahead of print]

Load-induced osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells is caused by mechano-regulated autocrine signaling.

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Julius Wolff Institute, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Berlin-Brandenburg Center and School for Regenerative Therapies, Berlin, Germany.
Institute for Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Mechanical boundary conditions critically influence the bone healing process. In this context, previous in vitro studies have demonstrated that cyclic mechanical compression alters migration and triggers osteogenesis of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC), both processes being relevant to healing. However, it remains unclear whether this mechanosensitivity is a direct consequence of cyclic compression, an indirect effect of altered supply or a specific modulation of autocrine bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling. Here, we investigate the influence of cyclic mechanical compression (ε = 5% and 10%, f = 1 Hz) on human bone marrow MSC (hBMSC) migration and osteogenic differentiation in a 3D biomaterial scaffold, an in vitro system mimicking the mechanical environment of the early bone healing phase. The open-porous architecture of the scaffold ensured sufficient supply even without cyclic compression, minimizing load-associated supply alterations. Furthermore, a large culture medium volume in relation to the cell number diminished autocrine signaling. Migration of hBMSCs was significantly downregulated under cyclic compression. Surprisingly, a decrease in migration was not associated with increased osteogenic differentiation of hBMSCs, as the expression of RUNX2 and osteocalcin decreased. In contrast, BMP2 expression was significantly upregulated. Enabling autocrine stimulation by increasing the cell-to-medium ratio in the bioreactor finally resulted in a significant upregulation of RUNX2 in response to cyclic compression, which could be reversed by rhNoggin treatment. The results indicate that osteogenesis is promoted by cyclic compression when cells condition their environment with BMP. Our findings highlight the importance of mutual interactions between mechanical forces and BMP signaling in controlling osteogenic differentiation.


autocrine signaling; bioreactor; bone morphogenetic protein type 2; cell migration; mechanical loading; osteogenic differentiation


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