BMP2-dependent gene regulatory network analysis reveals Klf4 as a novel transcription factor of osteoblast differentiation

Shuaitong Yu, Jinqiang Guo, Zheyi Sun, Chujiao Lin, Huangheng Tao, Qian Zhang, Yu Cui, Huanyan Zuo, Yuxiu Lin, Shuo Chen, Huan Liu, Zhi Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Transcription factors (TFs) regulate the expression of target genes, inducing changes in cell morphology or activities needed for cell fate determination and differentiation. The BMP signaling pathway is widely regarded as one of the most important pathways in vertebrate skeletal biology, of which BMP2 is a potent inducer, governing the osteoblast differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs). However, the mechanism by which BMP2 initiates its downstream transcription factor cascade and determines the direction of differentiation remains largely unknown. In this study, we used RNA-seq, ATAC-seq, and animal models to characterize the BMP2-dependent gene regulatory network governing osteoblast lineage commitment. Sp7-Cre; Bmp2fx/fx mice (BMP2-cKO) were generated and exhibited decreased bone density and lower osteoblast number (n > 6). In vitro experiments showed that BMP2-cKO mouse bone marrow stromal cells (mBMSCs) had an impact on osteoblast differentiation and deficient cell proliferation. Osteogenic medium induced mBMSCs from BMP2-cKO mice and control were subjected to RNA-seq and ATAC-seq analysis to reveal differentially expressed TFs, along with their target open chromatin regions. Combined with H3K27Ac CUT&Tag during osteoblast differentiation, we identified 2338 BMP2-dependent osteoblast-specific active enhancers. Motif enrichment assay revealed that over 80% of these elements were directly targeted by RUNX2, DLX5, MEF2C, OASIS, and KLF4. We deactivated Klf4 in the Sp7 + lineage to validate the role of KLF4 in osteoblast differentiation of mBMSCs. Compared to the wild-type, Sp7-Cre; Klf4fx/+ mice (KLF4-Het) were smaller in size and had abnormal incisors resembling BMP2-cKO mice. Additionally, KLF4-Het mice had fewer osteoblasts and decreased osteogenic ability. RNA-seq and ATAC-seq revealed that KLF4 mainly “co-bound” with RUNX2 to regulate downstream genes. Given the significant overlap between KLF4- and BMP2-dependent NFRs and enriched motifs, our findings outline a comprehensive BMP2-dependent gene regulatory network specifically governing osteoblast differentiation of the Sp7 + lineage, in which Klf4 is a novel transcription factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number197
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cancer Research
  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology


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