Expression of Osterix in mechanical stress-induced osteogenic differentiation of periodontal ligament cells in vitro

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Osterix (Osx) is an osteoblast-specific transcription factor required for the differentiation of pre-osteoblasts into functional osteoblasts. This study sought to examine the changes of Osx expression in periodontal ligament cells (PDLC) subjected to mechanical force, and to investigate whether Osx is involved in the mechanical stress-induced differentiation of PDLC. Human PDLC were exposed to centrifugal force for 1–12 h. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), western blot, and immunofluorescence assays were used to examine the mRNA and protein expression of Osx and its subcellular localization. Furthermore, PDLC were transfected with the expression vector pcDNA3.1 flag-Osx and subjected to mechanical force for 6 h. The changes in alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and in the expression of core-binding factor alpha1 (Cbfa1), ALP, osteopontin, bone sialoprotein, osteocalcin, and collagen I were measured. After the application of mechanical force, Osx was upregulated in a time-dependent manner at both mRNA and protein levels, and Osx protein was translocated from the cytosol into the cell nuclei. Overexpression of Osx did not affect the expression of Cbfa1, but it significantly enhanced the ALP activity and the mRNA expression of all the aforementioned osteogenic marker genes, all of which increased further under mechanical stress. These results suggest that Osx might play an important role in the mechanical stress-induced osteogenic differentiation of PDLC and therefore be involved in alveolar bone remodeling during orthodontic therapy.

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