Gene expression signatures of a fibroblastoid preosteoblast and cuboidal osteoblast cell model compared to the MLO-Y4 osteocyte cell model

Wuchen Yang, Marie A. Harris, Jelica Gluhak Heinrich, Dayong Guo, Lynda F. Bonewald, Stephen E. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


In the osteoblast 2T3 cell model, 326 genes significantly increase in expression as subconfluent fibroblastic 2T3 cells become confluent and cuboidal. This gene set includes BMP2/4, Dlx2/5, Runx2, Osterix and Lrp5, as well as TGFβ regulated genes. Both activated or total nuclear Smad158 and Smad2 levels increase as they become confluent, and β-catenin protein expression increases as 2T3 cells become confluent, reflecting a set of genes involved in early preosteoblast to osteoblast commitment, as observed in vitro and in vivo. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) demonstrated that this 326 dataset is very similar to several early osteoblast geneset signatures. The MLO-Y4 cell model is a well-known in vitro osteocyte model. The MLO-Y4 expression pattern was directly compared with the 2T3 osteoblast cell model. 181 genes that are highly expressed in MLO-Y4 osteocytes compared to osteoblasts were identified. Very few genes expressed in MLO-Y4 cells are found in osteocytes directly isolate from bone, suggesting that osteocyte specific gene programs most likely require the osteocytes to be embedded in the proper mineralized matrix. The MLO-Y4 dataset includes few established in vivo osteocyte markers, but does include several transcription factors such as Vitamin D receptor, Tcf7, and Irx5, whose expression was confirmed in osteocytes in vivo. Gene expression signatures in MLO-Y4 cells, as determined by functional clustering and interaction maps, suggest active prostaglandin-PKA pathways, genes involved in dendrite formation, acute/defense response pathways, TGFβ signaling, and interferon/chemokine pathways. GSEA demonstrated that MLO-Y4 expression pattern is similar to macrophages, mesenchymal fibroblasts, and early osteoblasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-45
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Functional clustering
  • Gene expression signatures
  • In vivo expression
  • Literature interaction maps
  • MLO-Y4 cell line
  • Osteoblast commitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


Dive into the research topics of 'Gene expression signatures of a fibroblastoid preosteoblast and cuboidal osteoblast cell model compared to the MLO-Y4 osteocyte cell model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this