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1.  MicroRNA Functions in Osteogenesis and Dysfunctions in Osteoporosis 
Current osteoporosis reports  2013;11(2):72-82.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are critical post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression that control osteoblast mediated bone formation and osteoclast-related bone remodelling. Deregulation of miRNA mediated mechanisms is emerging as an important pathological factor in bone degeneration (e.g., osteoporosis) and other bone-related diseases. MiRNAs are intriguing regulatory molecules that are networked with cell signaling pathways and intricate transcriptional programs through ingenuous circuits with remarkably simple logic. This overview examines key principles by which miRNAs control differentiation of osteoblasts as they evolve from mesenchymal stromal cells during osteogenesis, or of osteoclasts as they originate from monocytic precursors in the hematopoietic lineage during osteoclastogenesis. Of particular note are miRNAs that are temporally up-regulated during osteoblastogenesis (e.g., miR-218) or osteoclastogenesis (e.g., miR-148a). Each miRNA stimulates differentiation by suppressing inhibitory signalling pathways (‘double-negative’ regulation). The excitement surrounding miRNAs in bone biology stems from the prominent effects that individual miRNAs can have on biological transitions during differentiation of skeletal cells and correlations of miRNA dysfunction with bone diseases. MiRNAs have significant clinical potential which is reflected by their versatility as disease-specific biomarkers and their promise as therapeutic agents to ameliorate or reverse bone tissue degeneration.
PMCID: PMC3678273  PMID: 23605904
Osteoblast; osteoclast; osteoporosis; skeletal development; bone mineral density; osteogenesis; mesenchymal stem cell; miRNA
2.  Coordinated transcriptional regulation of bone homeostasis by Ebf1 and Zfp521 in both mesenchymal and hematopoietic lineages 
Absence of the transcriptional regulator Zfp521 results in decreased bone formation by osteoblasts and increased osteoclast differentiation, largely via Zfp521’s regulation of the transcription factor Ebf1.
Bone homeostasis is maintained by the coupled actions of hematopoietic bone-resorbing osteoclasts (OCs) and mesenchymal bone-forming osteoblasts (OBs). Here we identify early B cell factor 1 (Ebf1) and the transcriptional coregulator Zfp521 as components of the machinery that regulates bone homeostasis through coordinated effects in both lineages. Deletion of Zfp521 in OBs led to impaired bone formation and increased OB-dependent osteoclastogenesis (OC-genesis), and deletion in hematopoietic cells revealed a strong cell-autonomous role for Zfp521 in OC progenitors. In adult mice, the effects of Zfp521 were largely caused by repression of Ebf1, and the bone phenotype of Zfp521+/− mice was rescued in Zfp521+/−:Ebf1+/− mice. Zfp521 interacted with Ebf1 and repressed its transcriptional activity. Accordingly, deletion of Zfp521 led to increased Ebf1 activity in OBs and OCs. In vivo, Ebf1 overexpression in OBs resulted in suppressed bone formation, similar to the phenotype seen after OB-targeted deletion of Zfp521. Conversely, Ebf1 deletion led to cell-autonomous defects in both OB-dependent and cell-intrinsic OC-genesis, a phenotype opposite to that of the Zfp521 knockout. Thus, we have identified the interplay between Zfp521 and Ebf1 as a novel rheostat for bone homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3646489  PMID: 23569325
3.  Zfp521 Is a Target Gene and Key Effector of Parathyroid Hormone-Related Peptide Signaling in Growth Plate Chondrocytes 
Developmental cell  2010;19(4):533-546.
In the growth plate, the interplay between Parathyroid Hormone-Related Peptide (PTHrP) and Indian Hedgehog (Ihh) signaling tightly regulates chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation during longitudinal bone growth. We found that PTHrP increases the expression of Zfp521, a zinc finger transcriptional co-regulator, in pre-hypertrophic chondrocytes. Mice with chondrocyte-targeted deletion of Zfp521 resembled PTHrP-/- and chondrocyte-specific PTHR1-/- mice, with decreased chondrocyte proliferation, early hypertrophic transition and reduced growth plate thickness. Deleting Zfp521 increased expression of Runx2 and Runx2 target genes, and decreased cyclin D1 and Bcl-2 expression while increasing caspase-3 activation and apoptosis. Zfp521 associated with Runx2 in chondrocytes, antagonizing its activity via an HDAC4-dependent mechanism. PTHrP failed to up-regulate cyclin D1 and to antagonize Runx2, Ihh and Collagen X expression when Zfp521 was absent. Thus, Zfp521 is an important PTHrP target gene that regulates growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2958174  PMID: 20951345
4.  Collagen type I hydrogel allows migration, proliferation and osteogenic differentiation of rat bone marrow stromal cells 
Hydrogels are potentially useful for many purposes in regenerative medicine including drug and growth factor delivery, as single scaffold for bone repair or as a filler of pores of another biomaterial in which host mesenchymal progenitor cells can migrate in and differentiate into matrix-producing osteoblasts. Collagen type I is of special interest as it is a very important and abundant natural matrix component. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether rat bone marrow stromal cells (rBMSCs) are able to adhere to, to survive, to proliferate and to migrate in collagen type I hydrogels and whether they can adopt an osteoblastic fate. rBMSCs were obtained from rat femora and plated on collagen type I hydrogels. Prior to harvest by day 7, 14, and 21, hydrogels were fluorescently labeled, cryo-cut and analyzed by fluorescent-based and laser scanning confocal microscopy to determine cell proliferation, migration, and viability. Osteogenic differentiation was determined by alkaline phosphatase activity. Collagen type I hydrogels allowed the attachment of rBMSCs to the hydrogel, their proliferation, and migration towards the inner part of the gel. rBMSCs started to differentiate into osteoblasts as determined by an increase in alkaline phosphatase activity after two weeks in culture. This study therefore suggests that collagen type I hydrogels could be useful for musculoskeletal regenerative therapies.
PMCID: PMC2891839  PMID: 20186733
Collagen type I hydrogel; bone marrow stromal cells; cell migration; osteogenic differentiation; bone regeneration
5.  Zfp521 controls bone mass by HDAC3-dependent attenuation of Runx2 activity 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;191(7):1271-1283.
Zfp521 regulates osteoblast development during lineage commitment and osteoblast maturation by suppressing Runx2 transcriptional activity.
Runx2 is indispensable for osteoblast lineage commitment and early differentiation but also blocks osteoblast maturation, thereby causing bone loss in Runx2 transgenic mice. Zinc finger protein 521 (Zfp521) antagonizes Runx2 in vivo. Eliminating one Zfp521 allele mitigates the cleidocranial dysplasia–like phenotype of newborn Runx2+/− mice, whereas overexpressing Zfp521 exacerbates it. Overexpressing Zfp521 also reverses the severe osteopenia of adult Runx2 transgenic mice. Zfp521 binds to both Runx2 and histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), promotes their association, and antagonizes Runx2 transcriptional activity in an HDAC3-dependent manner. Mutating the Zfp521 zinc finger domains 6 and 26 reduces the binding of Zfp521 to Runx2 and inhibition of Runx2 activity. These data provide evidence that Zfp521 antagonizes Runx2 in vivo and thereby regulates two stages of osteoblast development, early during mesenchymal cell lineage commitment and later during osteoblast maturation. Thus, the balance and molecular interplay between Zfp521 and Runx2 contribute to the control of osteoblast differentiation, skeletal development, and bone homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3010073  PMID: 21173110
6.  Zfp521 antagonizes Runx2, delays osteoblast differentiation in vitro, and promotes bone formation in vivo 
Bone  2008;44(4):528-536.
Zfp521, a 30 C2H2 Kruppel-like zinc finger protein, is expressed at high levels at the periphery of early mesenchymal condensations prefiguring skeletal elements and in all developing bones in the perichondrium and periosteum, in osteoblast percursors and osteocytes, and in chondroblast percursors and growth plate prehypertrophic chondrocytes. Zfp521 expression in cultured mesenchymal cells is decreased by BMP-2 and increased by PTHrP, which promote and antagonize osteoblast differentiation, respectively. In vitro, Zfp521 overexpression reduces the expression of several downstream osteoblast marker genes and antagonizes osteoblast differentiation. Zfp521 binds Runx2 and represses its transcriptional activity, and Runx2 dose-dependently rescues Zfp521’s inhibition of osteoblast differentiation. In contrast, osteocalcin promoter-targeted overexpression of Zfp521 in osteoblasts in vivo results in increased bone formation and bone mass. We propose that Zfp521 regulates the rate of osteoblast differentiation and bone formation during development and in the mature skeleton, in part by antagonizing Runx2.
PMCID: PMC2746087  PMID: 19095088
Zfp521; Runx2; osteoblast; bone formation; differentiation

Results 1-6 (6)