Premature cranial suture fusion, or craniosynostosis, can result in gross aberrations of craniofacial growth. The biology underlying cranial suture fusion remains poorly understood. Previous studies of the Sprague-Dawley rat posterior frontal suture, which fuses at between 12 and 20 days, have suggested that the regional dura mater beneath the cranial suture directs the overlying suture's fusion. To address the dura-suture paracrine signaling that results in osteogenic differentiation and suture fusion, the authors investigated the possible role of insulin-like growth factors (IGF) I and II. The authors studied the temporal and spatial patterns of the expression of IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA and IGF-I peptide and osteocalcin (bone morphogenetic protein-4) protein in fusing posterior frontal rat sutures, and they compared them with patent coronal (control) sutures.
Ten Sprague-Dawley rats were studied at the following time points: 16, 18, and 20 days of gestation and 2, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 50, and 80 days after birth (n = 110). Posterior frontal and coronal (patent, control) sutures were analyzed for IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA expression by in situ hybridization by using 35S-labeled IGF-I and IGF-II antisense riboprobes. Levels of IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA were quantified by counting the number of autoradiograph signals per cell. IGF-I and osteocalcin immunoreactivity were identified by avidin-biotin peroxidase immunohistochemistry.
IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA were expressed in dural cells beneath fusing sutures, and the relative mRNA abundance increased between 2 and 10 days before initiation of fusion. Subsequently, IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA were detected in the suture connective tissue cells at 15 and 20 days during the time of active fusion. In contrast, within large osteoblasts of the osteogenic front, the expression of IGF-I and IGF-II mRNA was minimal. However, IGF-I peptide and osteocalcin protein were intensely immunoreactive within these osteoblasts at 15 days (during the period of suture fusion). These data suggest that the dura-suture interaction may be signaled in a paracrine fashion by dura-derived growth factors, such as IGF-I and IGF-II. These peptides, in turn, stimulate nearby osteoblasts to produce bone-promoting growth factors, such as osteocalcin. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 104: 129, 1999.)