• N-cadherin;
  • osteoblast;
  • differentiation;
  • adhesion;
  • dominant-negative


Cadherins are a family of cell surface adhesion molecules that play an important role in tissue differentiation. A limited repertoire of cadherins has been identified in osteoblasts, and the role of these molecules in osteoblast function remains to be elucidated. We recently cloned an osteoblast-derived N-cadherin gene from a rat osteoblast complementary DNA library. After in situ hybridization of rat bone and immunohistochemistry of human osteophytes, N-cadherin expression was localized prominently in well-differentiated (lining) osteoblasts. Northern blot hybridization in primary cultures of fetal rat calvaria and in human SaOS-2 and rat ROS osteoblast-like cells showed a relationship between N-cadherin messenger RNA expression and cell-to-cell adhesion, morphological differentiation, and alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin gene expression. Treatment with a synthetic peptide containing the His-Ala-Val (HAV) adhesion motif of N-cadherin significantly decreased bone nodule formation in primary cultures of fetal rat calvaria and inhibited cell-to-cell contact in rat osteoblastic TRAB-11 cells. HAV peptide also regulated the expression of specific genes such as alkaline phosphatase and the immediate early gene zif268 in SaOS-2 cells. Transient transfection of SaOS-2 cells with a dominant-negative N-cadherin mutant (NCADΔC) significantly inhibited their morphological differentiation. In addition, aggregation of NCTC cells derived from mouse connective tissue stably transfected with osteoblast-derived N-cadherin was inhibited by either treatment with HAV or transfection with NCADΔC. Together, these results strongly support a role for N-cadherin, in concert with other previously identified osteoblast cadherins, in the late stages of osteoblast differentiation. (J Bone Miner Res 2000;15:198–208)