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Osteoblast-Specific Transcription Factor Osterix Increases Vitamin D Receptor Gene Expression in Osteoblasts
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Author: Chi Zhang et al.

by Chi Zhang, Wanjin Tang, Yang Li, Fan Yang, Diane R. Dowd, Paul N. MacDonald

Osterix (Osx) is an osteoblast-specific transcription factor required for osteoblast differentiation from mesenchymal stem cells. In Osx knock-out mice, no bone formation occurs. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is a member of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily that regulates target gene transcription to ensure appropriate control of calcium homeostasis and bone development. Here, we provide several lines of evidence that show that the VDR gene is a target for transcriptional regulation by Osx in osteoblasts. For example, calvaria obtained from Osx-null embryos displayed dramatic reductions in VDR expression compared to wild-type calvaria. Stable overexpression of Osx stimulated VDR expression in C2C12 mesenchymal cells. Inhibition of Osx expression by siRNA led to downregulation of VDR. In contrast, Osx levels remained unchanged in osteoblasts in VDR-null mice. Mechanistic approaches using transient transfection assays showed that Osx directly activated a 1 kb fragment of the VDR promoter in a dose-dependent manner. To define the region of the VDR promoter that was responsive to Osx, a series of VDR promoter deletion mutants were examined and the minimal Osx-responsive region was refined to the proximal 120 bp of the VDR promoter. Additional point mutants were used to identify two GC-rich regions that were responsible for VDR promoter activation by Osx. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated that endogenous Osx was associated with the native VDR promoter in primary osteoblasts in vivo. Cumulatively, these data strongly support a direct regulatory role for Osx in VDR gene expression. They further provide new insight into potential mechanisms and pathways that Osx controls in osteoblasts and during the process of osteoblastic cell differentiation.