Osteogenesis is synergistically enhanced by the combined effect of complimentary factors. This study showed that Nell-1 and BMP-2 synergistically enhanced osteogenic differentiation of myoblasts and phosphorylated the JNK MAPK pathway. The findings are important because of the osteochondral specificity of Nell-1 signaling and the potential therapeutic effects of coordinated BMP-2 and Nell-1 delivery.
BMPs play an important role in the migration and proliferation of mesenchymal cells and have a unique ability to alter the differentiation of mesenchymal cells toward chondrogenic and osteogenic lineages. Signaling upstream of Cbfa1/Runx2, BMPs effects are not limited to cells of the osteoblast lineage. Thus, additional osteoblast-specific factors that could synergize with BMP-2 would be advantageous for bone regeneration procedures. NELL-1 (NEL-like molecule-1; NEL [a protein strongly expressed in neural tissue encoding epidermal growth factor like domain]) is a novel growth factor believed to preferentially target cells committed to the osteochondral lineage.
Materials and Methods
C2C12 myoblasts were transduced with AdLacZ, AdNell-1, AdBMP-2, or AdNell-1+AdBMP-2 overexpression viruses. Effects were studied by cell morphology, alkaline phosphatase activity, osteopontin production, and MAPK signaling. Additionally, in a nude mouse model, viruses were injected into leg muscles, and new bone formation was examined after 2 and 8 wk.
C2C12 myoblasts co-transduced with AdNell-1+AdBMP-2 showed a synergistic effect on osteogenic differentiation as detected by alkaline phosphatase activity and osteopontin production. Nell-1 stimulation on AdNell-1 + AdBMP-2 preconditioned C2C12 cells revealed significant activation of the non-BMP-2 associated c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) MAPK signaling pathway, but not the p38 or extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) MAPK pathways. Importantly Nell-1 alone did not induce osteogenic differentiation of myoblasts. In a nude mouse model, injection of AdNell-1 alone stimulated no bone formation within muscle; however, injection of AdNell-1+AdBMP-2 stimulated a synergistic increase in bone formation compared with AdBMP-2 alone.
These findings are important because of the confirmed osteochondral specificity of Nell-1 signaling and the potential therapeutic effects of enhanced BMP-2 action with coordinated Nell-1 delivery.