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Background

Calponin is a calmodulin-and actin-binding protein expressed in smooth muscle. It promotes actin polymerization and inhibits actin-activated myosin ATPase activity. Despite the molecular and functional characterization of calponin in vitro, the physiological role of calponin in vivo has not been clarified.

Results

We investigated the in vivo function of smooth muscle calponin (also called basic calponin or calponin h1) by generating mice carrying a targeted mutation in both alleles of the calponin gene. Mice lacking basic calponin expression displayed enhanced ectopic bone formation in vivo, induced by recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2), and an augmentation of the degree of osteoblastic differentiation of embryonic mesenchymal cells when they were stimulated by rhBMP-2. Basic calponin messenger RNA was shown to be expressed in developing and healing bone tissues, and in undifferentiated MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts. An examination of the skeletons of mutated mice showed an early onset of cartilage formation and ossification, and increased postnatal bone formation characterized by an increase in the number of activated periosteal osteoblasts. Bone fracture healing was accelerated in mutated mice.

Conclusion

This is the first demonstration of animals with enhanced BMP responsiveness in host cells, suggesting that endogenous basic calponin may play a negative role in an osteogenic programme.