The gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) has been proposed to play key roles in bone differentiation and mineralization, but underlying cellular mechanisms are not totally understood. To further explore roles of Cx43 in these processes, we immortalized calvarial osteoblasts from wild-type and Cx43-null mice using human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT). Osteoblastic (MOB) cell lines were generated from three individual wild-type and three individual Cx43-null mouse calvaria. Average population doubling times of the cell lines were higher than of the primary osteoblasts but did not greatly differ with regard to genotype. Modest to high level of Cx45 expression was detected in MOBs of both genotypes. Most of the cell lines expressed osteoblastic markers [Type I collagen, osteopontin, osteocalcin, parathyroid hormone/parathyroid hormone-related peptide receptor (PTH/PTHrP), periostin (OSF-2), osterix (Osx), runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), alkaline phosphatase (ALP)], and mineralization was comparable to that of primary osteoblasts. Two MOB cell lines from each genotype with most robust maintenance of osteoblast lineage markers were analyzed in greater detail, revealing that the Cx43-null cell lines showed a significant delay in early differentiation (up to 9 days in culture). Matrix mineralization was markedly delayed in one of the Cx43-null lines and slightly delayed in the other. These findings comparing new and very stable wild-type and Cx43-null osteoblastic cell lines define a role for Cx43 in early differentiation and mineralization stages of osteoblasts and further support the concept that Cx43 plays important role in the cellular processes associated with skeleton function.
- gap junction
- alkaline phosphatase
- human telomerase reverse transcriptase
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