Pharmacological Manipulation of Early Zebrafish Skeletal Development Shows an Important Role for Smad9 in Control of Skeletal Progenitor Populations

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Osteoporosis and other conditions associated with low bone density or quality are highly prevalent, are increasing as the population ages and with increased glucocorticoid use to treat conditions with elevated inflammation. There is an unmet need for therapeutics which can target skeletal precursors to induce osteoblast differentiation and osteogenesis. Genes associated with high bone mass represent interesting targets for manipulation, as they could offer ways to increase bone density. A damaging mutation in SMAD9 has recently been associated with high bone mass. Here we show that Smad9 labels groups of osteochondral precursor cells, which are not labelled by the other Regulatory Smads: Smad1 or Smad5. We show that Smad9+ cells are proliferative, and that the Smad9+ pocket expands following osteoblast ablation which induced osteoblast regeneration. We further show that treatment with retinoic acid, prednisolone, and dorsomorphin all alter Smad9 expression, consistent with the effects of these drugs on the skeletal system. Taken together these results demonstrate that Smad9+ cells represent an undifferentiated osteochondral precursor population, which can be manipulated by commonly used skeletal drugs. We conclude that Smad9 represents a target for future osteoanabolic therapies.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number277
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2021

Structured keywords

  • Developmental
  • Osteoblast
  • BMP-signalling
  • musculoskeletal
  • osteoporosis
  • zebrafish
  • Smad9
  • biomolecule

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