Rac1 Dosage Is Crucial for Normal Endochondral Bone Growth
Rac1, a member of the small Rho GTPase family, plays multiple cellular roles. Studies of mice conditionally lacking Rac1 have revealed essential roles for Rac1 in various tissues, including cartilage and limb mesenchyme, where Rac1 loss produces dwarfism and long bone shortening. To gain further insight into the role of Rac1 in skeletal development, we have used transgenic mouse lines to express a constitutively active (ca) Rac1 mutant protein in a Cre recombinase-dependent manner. Overexpression of caRac1 in limb bud mesenchyme or chondrocytes leads to reduced body weight and shorter bones compared with control mice. Histological analysis of growth plates showed that caRac1;Col2-Cre mice displayed ectopic hypertrophic chondrocytes in the proliferative zone and enlarged hypertrophic zones. These mice also displayed a reduced proportion of proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive cells in the proliferative zone and nuclear β-catenin localization in the ectopic hypertrophic chondrocytes. Importantly, overexpression of caRac1 partially rescued the phenotypes of Rac1fl/fl;Col2-Cre and Rac1fl/fl;Prx1-Cre conditional knockout mice, including body weight, bone length, and growth plate disorganization. These results suggest that tight regulation of Rac1 activity is necessary for normal cartilage development.