The BMP and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways cooperatively regulate osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Although BMP signaling regulates gene expression of the Wnt pathway, much less is known about whether Wnt signaling modulates BMP expression in osteoblasts. Given the presence of putative Tcf/Lef response elements that bind β-catenin/TCF transcription complex in the BMP2 promoter, we hypothesized that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway stimulates BMP2 expression in osteogenic cells. In this study, we showed that Wnt/β-catenin signaling is active in various osteoblast or osteoblast precursor cell lines, including MC3T3-E1, 2T3, C2C12, and C3H10T1/2 cells. Furthermore, crosstalk between the BMP and Wnt pathways affected BMP signaling activity, osteoblast differentiation, and bone formation, suggesting Wnt signaling is an upstream regulator of BMP signaling. Activation of Wnt signaling by Wnt3a or overexpression of β-catenin/TCF4 both stimulated BMP2 transcription at promoter and mRNA levels. In contrast, transcription of BMP2 in osteogenic cells was decreased by either blocking the Wnt pathway with DKK1 and sFRP4, or inhibiting β-catenin/TCF4 activity with FWD1/β-TrCP, ICAT, or δTCF4. Using a site-directed mutagenesis approach, we confirmed that Wnt/β-catenin transactivation of BMP2 transcription is directly mediated through the Tcf/Lef response elements in the BMP2 promoter. These results, which demonstrate that the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway is an upstream activator of BMP2 expression in osteoblasts, provide novel insights into the nature of functional cross talk integrating the BMP and Wnt/β-catenin pathways in osteoblastic differentiation and maintenance of skeletal homeostasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism