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Even though age-related changes to bone tissue affecting fracture risk are well characterized, only a few matrix-related factors have been identified as important to maintaining fracture resistance. As a gene critical to osteoblast differentiation, activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) is possibly one of these important factors. To test the hypothesis that the loss of ATF4 affects the fracture resistance of bone beyond bone mass and structure, we harvested bones from Atf4+/+ and Atf4-/- littermates at 8 and 20 weeks of age (n≥9 per group) for bone assessment across several length scales. From whole bone mechanical tests in bending, femurs from Atf4-/- mice were found to be brittle with reduced toughness and fracture toughness compared to femurs from Atf4+/+ mice. However, there were no differences in material strength and in tissue hardness, as determined by nanoindentation, between the genotypes, irrespective of age. Tissue mineral density of the cortex at the point of loading as determined by micro-computed tomography was also not significantly different. However, by analyzing local composition by Raman Spectroscopy (RS), bone tissue of Atf4-/- mice was found to have higher mineral to collagen ratio compared to wild-type tissue, primarily at 20 weeks of age. From RS analysis of intact femurs at 2 orthogonal orientations relative to the polarization axis of the laser, we also found that the organizational-sensitive peak ratio, ν1Phosphate per Amide I, changed to a greater extent upon bone rotation for Atf4-deficient tissue, implying bone matrix organization may contribute to the brittleness phenotype. Target genes of ATF4 activity are not only important to osteoblast differentiation but also in maintaining bone toughness and fracture toughness.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
ATF4 is an osteoblast-enriched transcription factor of the leucine zipper family. We recently identified that vimentin, a leucine zipper-containing intermediate filament protein, suppresses ATF4-dependent osteocalcin (Ocn) transcription and osteoblast differentiation. Here we show that TGFβ inhibits ATF4-dependent activation of Ocn by up-regulation of vimentin expression. Osteoblasts lacking Atf4 (Atf4(-/-)) were less sensitive than wild-type (WT) cells to the inhibition by TGFβ on alkaline phosphatase activity, Ocn transcription and mineralization. Importantly, the anabolic effect of a monoclonal antibody neutralizing active TGFβ ligands on bone in WT mice was blunted in Atf4(-/-) mice. These data establish that ATF4 is required for TGFβ-related suppression of Ocn transcription and osteoblast differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, TGFβ did not directly regulate the expression of ATF4; instead, it enhanced the expression of vimentin, a negative regulator of ATF4, at the post-transcriptional level. Accordingly, knockdown of endogenous vimentin in 2T3 osteoblasts abolished the inhibition of Ocn transcription by TGFβ, confirming an indirect mechanism by which TGFβ acts through vimentin to suppress ATF4-dependent Ocn activation. Furthermore, inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling, but not canonical Smad signaling, downstream of TGFβ, blocked TGFβ-induced synthesis of vimentin, and inhibited ATF4-dependent Ocn transcription in osteoblasts. Thus, our study identifies that TGFβ stimulates vimentin production via PI3K-Akt-mTOR signaling, which leads to suppression of ATF4-dependent Ocn transcription and osteoblast differentiation.
Atf4 is a leucine zipper-containing transcription factor that activates osteocalcin (Ocn) in osteoblasts and indian hedgehog (Ihh) in chondrocytes. The relative contribution of Atf4 in chondrocytes and osteoblasts to the regulation of skeletal development and bone formation is poorly understood. Investigations of the Atf4(-/-);Col2a1-Atf4 mouse model, in which Atf4 is selectively overexpressed in chondrocytes in an Atf4-null background, demonstrate that chondrocyte-derived Atf4 regulates osteogenesis during development and bone remodeling postnatally. Atf4 overexpression in chondrocytes of the Atf4(-/-);Col2a1-Atf4 double mutants corrects the reduction in stature and limb in Atf4(-/-) embryos and rectifies the decrease in Ihh expression, Hh signaling, proliferation and accelerated hypertrophy that characterize the Atf4(-/-) developing growth plate cartilages. Unexpectedly, this genetic manipulation also restores the expression of osteoblastic marker genes, namely Ocn and bone sialoprotein, in Atf4(-/-) developing bones. In Atf4(-/-);Col2a1-Atf4 adult mice, all the defective bone parameters found in Atf4(-/-) mice, including bone volume, trabecular number and thickness, and bone formation rate, are rescued. In addition, the conditioned media of ex vivo cultures from wild-type or Atf4(-/-);Col2a1-Atf4, but not Atf4(-/-) cartilage, corrects the differentiation defects of Atf4(-/-) bone marrow stromal cells and Ihh-blocking antibody eliminates this effect. Together, these data indicate that Atf4 in chondrocytes is required for normal Ihh expression and for its paracrine effect on osteoblast differentiation. Therefore, the cell-autonomous role of Atf4 in chondrocytes dominates the role of Atf4 in osteoblasts during development for the control of early osteogenesis and skeletal growth.
Activating transcription factor 4 (Atf4) is a leucine-zipper-containing protein of the cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) family. Ablation of Atf4 (Atf4(-/-)) in mice leads to severe skeletal defects, including delayed ossification and low bone mass, short stature and short limbs. Atf4 is expressed in proliferative and prehypertrophic growth plate chondrocytes, suggesting an autonomous function of Atf4 in chondrocytes during endochondral ossification. In Atf4(-/-) growth plate, the typical columnar structure of proliferative chondrocytes is disturbed. The proliferative zone is shortened, whereas the hypertrophic zone is transiently expanded. The expression of Indian hedgehog (Ihh) is markedly decreased, whereas the expression of other chondrocyte marker genes, such as type II collagen (Col2a1), PTH/PTHrP receptor (Pth1r) and type X collagen (Col10a1), is normal. Furthermore, forced expression of Atf4 in chondrocytes induces endogenous Ihh mRNA, and Atf4 directly binds to the Ihh promoter and activates its transcription. Supporting these findings, reactivation of Hh signaling pharmacologically in mouse limb explants corrects the Atf4(-/-) chondrocyte proliferation and short limb phenotypes. This study thus identifies Atf4 as a novel transcriptional activator of Ihh in chondrocytes that paces longitudinal bone growth by controlling growth plate chondrocyte proliferation and differentiation.
Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) is an osteoblast-enriched transcription factor that regulates osteocalcin transcription and osteoblast terminal differentiation. To identify functional partners of ATF4, we applied ROS17/2.8 osteoblast nuclear extracts and purified recombinant His-ATF4 onto a Ni(+) affinity matrix chromatography column. Vimentin was identified by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Coimmunoprecipitation and pulldown assays revealed that vimentin interacted with ATF4 with its first leucine zipper domain. DNA cotransfection and gel retardation demonstrated that vimentin inhibited the transactivation activity of ATF4 on osteocalcin by preventing it to bind OSE1, the ATF4 binding site on the osteocalcin promoter. Northern hybridization revealed that vimentin was expressed at a high level in immature osteoblasts and a low level in fully differentiated osteoblasts. Down-regulation of vimentin by small interfering RNA induced endogenous osteocalcin transcription in immature osteoblasts. Conversely, ectopic overexpression of vimentin in osteoblasts inhibited osteoblast differentiation as shown by lower alkaline phosphatase activity, delayed mineralization, and decreased expression of osteoblast marker genes such as bone sialoprotein and osteocalcin. Together, our data uncover a novel mechanism whereby a cytoskeletal protein, vimentin, acts as a break on differentiation in immature osteoblasts by interacting with ATF4.
The transcription factor ATF4 enhances bone formation by favoring amino acid import and collagen synthesis in osteoblasts, a function requiring its phosphorylation by RSK2, the kinase inactivated in Coffin-Lowry Syndrome. Here, we show that in contrast, RSK2 activity, ATF4-dependent collagen synthesis, and bone formation are increased in mice lacking neurofibromin in osteoblasts (Nf1(ob)(-/-) mice). Independently of RSK2, ATF4 phosphorylation by PKA is enhanced in Nf1(ob)(-/-) mice, thereby increasing Rankl expression, osteoclast differentiation, and bone resorption. In agreement with ATF4 function in amino acid transport, a low-protein diet decreased bone protein synthesis and normalized bone formation and bone mass in Nf1(ob)(-/-) mice without affecting other organ weight, while a high-protein diet overcame Atf4(-/-) and Rsk2(-/-) mice developmental defects, perinatal lethality, and low bone mass. By showing that ATF4-dependent skeletal dysplasiae are treatable by dietary manipulations, this study reveals a molecular connection between nutrition and skeletal development.
Bone remodelling, the mechanism by which vertebrates regulate bone mass, comprises two phases, namely resorption by osteoclasts and formation by osteoblasts; osteoblasts are multifunctional cells also controlling osteoclast differentiation. Sympathetic signalling via beta2-adrenergic receptors (Adrb2) present on osteoblasts controls bone formation downstream of leptin. Here we show, by analysing Adrb2-deficient mice, that the sympathetic nervous system favours bone resorption by increasing expression in osteoblast progenitor cells of the osteoclast differentiation factor Rankl. This sympathetic function requires phosphorylation (by protein kinase A) of ATF4, a cell-specific CREB-related transcription factor essential for osteoblast differentiation and function. That bone resorption cannot increase in gonadectomized Adrb2-deficient mice highlights the biological importance of this regulation, but also contrasts sharply with the increase in bone resorption characterizing another hypogonadic mouse with low sympathetic tone, the ob/ob mouse. This discrepancy is explained, in part, by the fact that CART ('cocaine amphetamine regulated transcript'), a neuropeptide whose expression is controlled by leptin and nearly abolished in ob/ob mice, inhibits bone resorption by modulating Rankl expression. Our study establishes that leptin-regulated neural pathways control both aspects of bone remodelling, and demonstrates that integrity of sympathetic signalling is necessary for the increase in bone resorption caused by gonadal failure.
In response to environmental stress, cells induce a program of gene expression designed to remedy cellular damage or, alternatively, induce apoptosis. In this report, we explore the role of a family of protein kinases that phosphorylate eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) in coordinating stress gene responses. We find that expression of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3), a member of the ATF/CREB subfamily of basic-region leucine zipper (bZIP) proteins, is induced in response to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress or amino acid starvation by a mechanism requiring eIF2 kinases PEK (Perk or EIF2AK3) and GCN2 (EIF2AK4), respectively. Increased expression of ATF3 protein occurs early in response to stress by a mechanism requiring the related bZIP transcriptional regulator ATF4. ATF3 contributes to induction of the CHOP transcriptional factor in response to amino acid starvation, and loss of ATF3 function significantly lowers stress-induced expression of GADD34, an eIF2 protein phosphatase regulatory subunit implicated in feedback control of the eIF2 kinase stress response. Overexpression of ATF3 in mouse embryo fibroblasts partially bypasses the requirement for PEK for induction of GADD34 in response to ER stress, further supporting the idea that ATF3 functions directly or indirectly as a transcriptional activator of genes targeted by the eIF2 kinase stress pathway. These results indicate that ATF3 has an integral role in the coordinate gene expression induced by eIF2 kinases. Given that ATF3 is induced by a very large number of environmental insults, this study supports involvement of eIF2 kinases in the coordination of gene expression in response to a more diverse set of stress conditions than previously proposed.