Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research

SOXC Transcription Factors Induce Cartilage Growth Plate Formation in Mouse Embryos by Promoting Noncanonical WNT Signaling.

PMID 25761772


Growth plates are specialized cartilage structures that ensure the elongation of most skeletal primordia during vertebrate development. They are made by chondrocytes that proliferate in longitudinal columns and then progress in a staggered manner towards prehypertrophic, hypertrophic and terminal maturation. Complex molecular networks control the formation and activity of growth plates, but remain incompletely understood. We investigated here the importance of the SoxC genes, which encode the SOX4, SOX11 and SOX12 transcription factors, in growth plates. We show that the three genes are expressed robustly in perichondrocytes and weakly in growth plate chondrocytes. SoxC(Prx1Cre) mice, which deleted SoxC genes in limb bud skeletogenic mesenchyme, were born with tiny appendicular cartilage primordia because of failure to form growth plates. In contrast, SoxC(Col2Cre) and SoxC(ATC) mice, which deleted SoxC genes primarily in chondrocytes, were born with mild dwarfism and fair growth plates. Chondrocytes in the latter mutants matured normally, but formed irregular columns, proliferated slowly and died ectopically. Asymmetric distribution of VANGL2 was defective in both SoxC(Prx1Cre) and SoxC(ATC) chondrocytes, indicating impairment of planar cell polarity, a noncanonical WNT signaling pathway that controls growth plate chondrocyte alignment, proliferation and survival. Accordingly, SoxC genes were necessary in perichondrocytes for expression of Wnt5a, which encodes a noncanonical WNT ligand required for growth plate formation, and in chondrocytes and perichondrocytes for expression of Fzd3 and Csnk1e, which encode a WNT receptor and casein kinase-1 subunit mediating planar cell polarity, respectively. Reflecting the differential strengths of the SOXC protein transactivation domains, SOX11 was more powerful than SOX4, and SOX12 interfered with the activity of SOX4 and SOX11. Altogether, these findings provide novel insights into the molecular regulation of skeletal growth by proposing that SOXC proteins act cell- and non-cell-autonomously in perichondrocytes and chondrocytes to establish noncanonical WNT signaling crosstalk essential for growth plate induction and control.