The bone marrow microenvironment provides a unique opportunity in vivo to assess the role of genes in bone remodeling. The objective of this study was to determine whether Runx2 expression is regulated by rhBMP-2 in vivo and to examine the effect of Runx2 overexpression on bone in vivo. In the in vivo calvaria model we used, rhBMP-2 induced Runx2 protein expression in periosteal cells while in vitro, adenovirus-mediated Runx2 overexpression induced mineralization in mesenchymal stem cells. A single injection of adeno-Runx2 directly into the bone marrow of the right femur in mature rats, and subsequent analysis after 3 weeks, showed a significant bone mineral density (BMD) increase (∼15%) as compared to the controls. The whole-femur mean BMD of the active virus-injected group was 0.193 (g/cm2) while that of the control virus-injected group was 0.175 (g/cm2) (P < 0.05). In addition, a significant increase (36%) in trabecular BMD at the distal end of the femur was observed. These data demonstrate that directly delivering adeno-Runx2 into bone marrow of adult rats induces osteogenesis and illustrates potential advantages of such approaches over ex vivo gene therapy protocols involving marrow cell isolation, gene transduction, and subsequent in vivo transfer. J. Cell. Biochem. 103: 1912–1924, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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