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      Epigenetic Mechanisms in Bone Biology and Osteoporosis: Can They Drive Therapeutic Choices?


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          Osteoporosis is a complex multifactorial disorder of the skeleton. Genetic factors are important in determining peak bone mass and structure, as well as the predisposition to bone deterioration and fragility fractures. Nonetheless, genetic factors alone are not sufficient to explain osteoporosis development and fragility fracture occurrence. Indeed, epigenetic factors, representing a link between individual genetic aspects and environmental influences, are also strongly suspected to be involved in bone biology and osteoporosis. Recently, alterations in epigenetic mechanisms and their activity have been associated with aging. Also, bone metabolism has been demonstrated to be under the control of epigenetic mechanisms. Runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2), the master transcription factor of osteoblast differentiation, has been shown to be regulated by histone deacetylases and microRNAs (miRNAs). Some miRNAs were also proven to have key roles in the regulation of Wnt signalling in osteoblastogenesis, and to be important for the positive or negative regulation of both osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation. Exogenous and environmental stimuli, influencing the functionality of epigenetic mechanisms involved in the regulation of bone metabolism, may contribute to the development of osteoporosis and other bone disorders, in synergy with genetic determinants. The progressive understanding of roles of epigenetic mechanisms in normal bone metabolism and in multifactorial bone disorders will be very helpful for a better comprehension of disease pathogenesis and translation of this information into clinical practice. A deep understanding of these mechanisms could help in the future tailoring of proper individual treatments, according to precision medicine’s principles.

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          Epigenetics and gene expression.

          Transcription, translation and subsequent protein modification represent the transfer of genetic information from the archival copy of DNA to the short-lived messenger RNA, usually with subsequent production of protein. Although all cells in an organism contain essentially the same DNA, cell types and functions differ because of qualitative and quantitative differences in their gene expression. Thus, control of gene expression is at the heart of differentiation and development. Epigenetic processes, including DNA methylation, histone modification and various RNA-mediated processes, are thought to influence gene expression chiefly at the level of transcription; however, other steps in the process (for example, translation) may also be regulated epigenetically. The following paper will outline the role epigenetics is believed to have in influencing gene expression.
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            MicroRNA-204 regulates Runx2 protein expression and mesenchymal progenitor cell differentiation.

            Differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into a particular lineage is tightly regulated, and malfunction of this regulation could lead to pathological consequences. Patients with osteoporosis have increased adipocyte accumulation, but the mechanisms involved remain to be defined. In this study, we aimed to investigate if microRNAs regulate mesenchymal progenitor cells and bone marrow stromal cell (BMSC) differentiation through modulation of Runx2, a key transcription factor for osteogenesis. We found that miR-204 and its homolog miR-211 were expressed in mesenchymal progenitor cell lines and BMSCs and their expression was induced during adipocyte differentiation, whereas Runx2 protein expression was suppressed. Retroviral overexpression of miR-204 or transfection of miR-204 oligo decreased Runx2 protein levels and miR-204 inhibition significantly elevated Runx2 protein levels, suggesting that miR-204 acts as an endogenous attenuator of Runx2 in mesenchymal progenitor cells and BMSCs. Mutations of putative miR-204 binding sites upregulated the Runx2 3'-UTR reporter activity, suggesting that miR-204/211 bind to Runx2 3'-UTR. Perturbation of miR-204 resulted in altered differentiation fate of mesenchymal progenitor cells and BMSCs: osteoblast differentiation was inhibited and adipocyte differentiation was promoted when miR-204 was overexpressed in these cells, whereasosteogenesis was upregulated and adipocyte formation was impaired when miR-204 was inhibited. Together, our data demonstrated that miR-204/211 act as important endogenous negative regulators of Runx2, which inhibit osteogenesis and promote adipogenesis of mesenchymal progenitor cells and BMSCs.
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              A microRNA signature for a BMP2-induced osteoblast lineage commitment program.

              Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are potent morphogens that activate transcriptional programs for lineage determination. How BMP induction of a phenotype is coordinated with microRNAs (miRNAs) that inhibit biological pathways to control cell differentiation, remains unknown. Here, we show by profiling miRNAs during BMP2 induced osteogenesis of C2C12 mesenchymal cells, that 22 of 25 miRNAs which significantly changed in response to BMP2 are down-regulated. These miRNAs are each predicted to target components of multiple osteogenic pathways. We characterize two representative miRNAs and show that miR-133 directly targets Runx2, an early BMP response gene essential for bone formation, and miR-135 targets Smad5, a key transducer of the BMP2 osteogenic signal, controlled through their 3'UTR sequences. Both miRNAs functionally inhibit differentiation of osteoprogenitors by attenuating Runx2 and Smad5 pathways that synergistically contribute to bone formation. Although miR-133 is known to promote MEF-2-dependent myogenesis, we have identified a second complementary function to inhibit Runx2-mediated osteogenesis. Our key finding is that BMP2 controls bone cell determination by inducing miRNAs that target muscle genes but mainly by down-regulating multiple miRNAs that constitute an osteogenic program, thereby releasing from inhibition pathway components required for cell lineage commitment. Thus, our studies establish a mechanism for BMP morphogens to selectively induce a tissue-specific phenotype and suppress alternative lineages.

                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                12 August 2016
                August 2016
                : 17
                : 8
                : 1329
                Department of Surgery and Translational Medicine, University of Florence and Metabolic Bone Diseases Unit, University Hospital of Florence, Largo Palagi 1, 50139 Florence, Italy; f.marini@ 123456dmi.unifi.it (F.M.); luisella.cianferotti@ 123456unifi.it (L.C.)
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: marialuisa.brandi@ 123456unifi.it ; Tel.: +39-055-794-6304; Fax: +39-055-794-6303
                © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 01 July 2016
                : 05 August 2016

                Molecular biology
                gene expression,histone modifications,dna methylation,micrornas,precision medicine,fragility fracture


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