PloS one

A subset of osteoblasts expressing high endogenous levels of PPARgamma switches fate to adipocytes in the rat calvaria cell culture model.

PMID 20668686


Understanding fate choice and fate switching between the osteoblast lineage (ObL) and adipocyte lineage (AdL) is important to understand both the developmental inter-relationships between osteoblasts and adipocytes and the impact of changes in fate allocation between the two lineages in normal aging and certain diseases. The goal of this study was to determine when during lineage progression ObL cells are susceptible to an AdL fate switch by activation of endogenous peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)gamma. Multiple rat calvaria cells within the ObL developmental hierarchy were isolated by either fractionation on the basis of expression of alkaline phosphatase or retrospective identification of single cell-derived colonies, and treated with BRL-49653 (BRL), a synthetic ligand for PPARgamma. About 30% of the total single cell-derived colonies expressed adipogenic potential (defined cytochemically) when BRL was present. Profiling of ObL and AdL markers by qRT-PCR on amplified cRNA from over 160 colonies revealed that BRL-dependent adipogenic potential correlated with endogenous PPARgamma mRNA levels. Unexpectedly, a significant subset of relatively mature ObL cells exhibited osteo-adipogenic bipotentiality. Western blotting and immunocytochemistry confirmed that ObL cells co-expressed multiple mesenchymal lineage determinants (runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), PPARgamma, Sox9 and MyoD which localized in the cytoplasm initially, and only Runx2 translocated to the nucleus during ObL progression. Notably, however, some cells exhibited both PPARgamma and Runx2 nuclear labeling with concomitant upregulation of expression of their target genes with BRL treatment. We conclude that not only immature but a subset of relatively mature ObL cells characterized by relatively high levels of endogenous PPARgamma expression can be switched to the AdL. The fact that some ObL cells maintain capacity for adipogenic fate selection even at relatively mature developmental stages implies an unexpected plasticity with important implications in normal and pathological bone development.