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Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)-2 are both produced and secreted by osteoblasts. Both proteins have been shown to have independent effects in regulating osteoblast proliferation, maturation and mineralization. However, how these two proteins interact during osteoblast differentiation remains unknown. In this study, we utilized two cell culture model systems, osteoblasts derived from CTGF knockout (KO) mice and osteoblasts infected with an adenovirus which over-expresses CTGF (Ad-CTGF), to investigate the effects of CTGF and BMP-2 on osteoblast development and function in vitro. Contrary to a previously published report, osteoblast maturation and mineralization were similar in osteogenic cultures derived from KO and WT calvaria in the absence of BMP-2 stimulation. Interestingly, in KO and WT osteoblast cultures stimulated with BMP-2, the KO osteoblasts exhibited enhanced osteoblast differentiation. This increase in osteoblast differentiation was accompanied by increased protein levels of phosphorylated Smad 1/5/8 and mRNA expression levels of bone morphogenetic protein receptor Ib. We also examined osteoblast differentiation in cultures that were infected with an adenoviral-CTGF vector (Ad-CTGF) and in controls. Continuous over-expression of CTGF resulted in decreased osteoblast maturation and mineralization in both unstimulated and BMP-2 stimulated cultures. Impaired osteoblast differentiation in cultures over-expressing CTGF was accompanied by decreased protein levels of phosphorylated Smad 1/5/8. Collectively, the data from these studies demonstrate that CTGF acts to negatively regulate BMP-2 induced signaling and osteoblast differentiation, and warrant additional studies to determine the precise mechanism(s) responsible for this effect. J. Cell. Physiol. 229: 672-681, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.