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Int J Biol Sci 2013; 9(3):256-266. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5898

Research Paper

ATF4 Promotes β-Catenin Expression and Osteoblastic Differentiation of Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Shibing Yu1, Ke Zhu2,3, Yumei Lai3, Zhongfang Zhao2, Jie Fan4, Hee-Jeong Im3, Di Chen3, Guozhi Xiao2,3 ✉

1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15240, USA.
2. College of Life Sciences, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China.
3. Department of Biochemistry, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.
4. Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15240, USA.

Abstract

Bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can differentiate into multiple cell types including osteoblasts. How this differentiation process is controlled, however, is not completely understood. Here we show that activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) plays a critical role in promoting bone marrow MSC differentiation towards the osteoblast lineage. Ablation of the Atf4 gene blocked the formation of osteoprogenitors and inhibited osteoblast differentiation without affecting the expansion and formation of MSCs in bone marrow cultures. Loss of ATF4 dramatically reduced the level of β-catenin protein in MSCs in vitro and in osteoblasts/osteoprogenitors located on trabecular and calvarial surfaces. Loss of ATF4 did not decrease the expression of major canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling components such as Wnt3a, Wnt7b, Wnt10b, Lrp5, and Lrp6 in MSCs. Furthermore, shRNA knockdown of ATF4 expression decreased the level of β-catenin protein in MC-4 preosteoblasts. In contrast, overexpression of ATF4 increased β-catenin protein levels in MC-4 cells. Finally, ATF4 and β-catenin formed a protein-protein complex in COS-7 cells coexpressing both factors or in MC-4 preosteoblastic cells. This study establishes a new role of ATF4 in controlling the β-catenin protein levels and MSC differentiation towards the osteoblast lineage.

Keywords: ATF4, β-catenin, MSC, osteoblast, bone.

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How to cite this article:
Yu S, Zhu K, Lai Y, Zhao Z, Fan J, Im HJ, Chen D, Xiao G. ATF4 Promotes β-Catenin Expression and Osteoblastic Differentiation of Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Int J Biol Sci 2013; 9(3):256-266. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5898. Available from http://www.ijbs.com/v09p0256.htm