The efficacy of glucocorticoids (GCs) in treating a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions is blemished by severe side effects, including osteoporosis. The chief mechanism leading to GC-induced osteoporosis is inhibition of bone formation, but the role of RUNX2, a master regulator of osteoblast differentiation and bone formation, has not been well studied. We assessed effects of the synthetic GC dexamethasone (dex) on transcription of RUNX2-stimulated genes during the differentiation of mesenchymal pluripotent cells into osteoblasts. Dex inhibited a RUNX2 reporter gene and attenuated locus-dependently RUNX2-driven expression of several endogenous target genes. The anti-RUNX2 activity of dex was not attributable to decreased RUNX2 expression, but rather to physical interaction between RUNX2 and the GC receptor (GR), demonstrated by co-immunoprecipitation assays and co-immunofluorescence imaging. Investigation of the RUNX2/GR interaction may lead to the development of bone-sparing GC treatment modalities for the management of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. J. Cell. Biochem. 115: 27–33, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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