Ontogeny of Phex/PHEX Protein Expression in Mouse Embryo and Subcellular Localization in Osteoblasts


  • The authors have no conflict of interest


PHEX, a phosphate-regulating gene with homologies to endopeptidases on the X chromosome, is mutated in X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH) in humans and mice (Hyp). Although recent observations indicate that Phex protein is expressed primarily in bone and may play an important role in osteoblast function and bone mineralization, the pattern of the Phex protein expression in the developing skeleton and its subcellular localization in osteoblasts remain unknown. We examined the ontogeny of the Phex protein in the developing mouse embryo and its subcellular localization in osteoblasts using a specific antibody to the protein. Immunohistochemical staining of mouse embryos revealed expression of Phex in osteogenic precursors in developing vertebral bodies and developing long bones on day 16 postcoitum (pc) and thereafter. Calvaria from day 18 pc mice showed Phex epitopes in osteoblasts. No Phex immunoreactivity was detected in lung, heart, hepatocytes, kidney, intestine, skeletal muscle, or adipose tissue of mouse embryos. Interestingly, embryonic mouse skin showed moderate amounts of Phex immunostaining. In postnatal mice, Phex expression was observed in osteoblasts and osteocytes. Moderate expression of Phex was seen in odontoblasts and slight immunoreactivity was observed in ameloblasts. Confocal microscopy revealed the presence of immunoreactive PHEX protein in the Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum of osteoblasts from normal mice and in osteoblasts from Hyp mice transduced with a human PHEX viral expression vector. PHEX protein was not detected in untransduced Hyp osteoblasts. These data indicate that Phex protein is expressed in osteoblasts and osteocytes during the embryonic and postnatal periods and that within bone, Phex may be a unique marker for cells of the osteoblast/osteocyte lineage.