• osteoblast lineage;
  • Col1a1 transgene;
  • marrow stromal cells;
  • calvarial osteoblasts;
  • ROS 17/2.8


The modular organization of the type I collagen promoter allows creation of promoter-reporter constructs with preferential activity in different type I collagen-producing tissues that might be useful to mark cells at different stages of osteoblastic differentiation. Primary marrow stromal cell (MSC) and mouse calvarial osteoblast (mCOB) cultures were established from transgenic mice harboring different Col1a1 promoter fragments driving chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT). In these models, Col1a1 messenger RNA (mRNA) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) are the first markers of differentiation appearing soon after the colonies develop. Bone sialoprotein (BSP) is detected 2-3 days later, followed by osteocalcin (OC) expression and nodule mineralization. A 3.6 Col1a1 fragment (ColCAT3.6) initiated activity concomitant with ALP staining and type I collagen mRNA expression. In contrast, a 2.3 Col1a1 fragment (ColCAT2.3) became active coincident with BSP expression. The pattern of transgene expression assessed by immunostaining was distinctly different. ColCAT3.6 was expressed within and at the periphery of developing nodules whereas the ColCAT2.3 expression was restricted to the differentiated nodules. The feasibility of using green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a marker of osteoblast differentiation was evaluated in ROS17/2.8 cells. A 2.3-kilobase (kb) Col1a1 promoter driving GFP (pOB4Col2.3GLP) was stably transfected into the cell line and positive clones were selected. Subcultures lost and then regained GFP expression that was localized in small clusters of cells throughout the culture. This suggests that expression from the 2.3-kb Col1A1 fragment is determined by the state of differentiation of the ROS17/2.8 cells. Col1a1 transgenes should be useful in appreciating the heterogeneity of a primary or immortalized culture undergoing osteoblastic differentiation.