• unloading;
  • transforming growth factor β;
  • adipogenesis;
  • peroxisome proliferator-activated  receptor γ2;
  • marrow stroma


Skeletal unloading induced by hindlimb suspension in rats reduces bone formation and induces osteopenia, but its effect on adipogenesis is unknown. We assessed the effects of unloading and transforming growth factor (TGF) β2 on bone marrow stromal cell adipocyte differentiation in relation with osteoblast differentiation. Skeletal unloading rapidly (4-7 days) decreased osteoblast transcription factor Runx2, osteocalcin (OC), and type I collagen messenger RNA (mRNA) levels and reduced bone formation in the long bone metaphysis. Conversely, unloading increased expression of the adipocyte transcription factor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ2 (PPARγ2) at 4 days and increased expression of the adipocyte differentiation genes lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and aP2 in the bone marrow stroma at 7 days. Consistently, unloading increased the number and volume of adipocytes in the bone marrow stroma. Continuous (0-7 days) and late (4-7 days) treatments with TGF-β2 corrected the abnormal expression of Cbfa1/Runx2, OC, and type I collagen mRNAs and normalized bone formation in unloaded metaphyseal bone. Moreover, both TGF-β2 treatments decreased PPARγ2 and C/EBPα mRNA levels at 4 days and normalized aP2 and LPL expression and adipocyte number and volume at 7 days. These results show that skeletal unloading increases adipocyte differentiation concomitantly with inhibition of osteoblast differentiation. These abnormalities are prevented and reversed by TGF-β2, suggesting a role for TGF-β in the control of adipogenic differentiation in the bone marrow stroma.