Although substance P (SP) is associated with osteoclast differentiation and bone resorption, little is known about the osteogenic differentiation-inducing effects of SP in periodontal ligament (PDL) cells. This study investigated whether PDL cells could differentiate into osteoblastic-like cells by SP. The expression of osteoblastic differentiation markers such as osteopontin (OPN), osteonectin (ON), osteocalcin (OCN) and bone sialoprotein (BSP) were evaulated by Western blotting. Additionally, SP-mediated heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) pathways were further clarified.
SP increased HO-1 and osteogenic differentiation in concentration- and time-dependent manners, as determined by OPN, ON, OCN and BSP expression. Furthermore, treatment with inhibitors of p38, ERK MAPK, and NF-κB abolished SP-induced osteogenic differentiation and HO-1 expression. SP-induced translocation of Nrf-2 was also observed. The combined results suggest that SP activates the stress-response enzymes HO-1 and Nrf-2, subsequently leading to upregulation of osteogenic differentiation in human PDL cells.