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Keywords:

  • osteoblasts;
  • apoptosis;
  • craniosynostosis;
  • NELL-1;
  • Nell-1

Abstract

We studied the cellular function of Nell-1, a craniosynostosis-related gene, in craniofacial development. Nell-1 modulates calvarial osteoblast differentiation and apoptosis pathways. Nell-1 overexpression disrupts these pathways resulting in craniofacial anomalies such as premature suture closure.

Introduction: Craniosynostosis (CS), one of the most common congenital craniofacial deformities, is the premature closure of cranial sutures. Previously, we reported NELL-1 as a novel molecule overexpressed during premature cranial suture closure in patients with CS. Nell-1 overexpression induced calvarial overgrowth and resulted in premature suture closure in a rodent model. On a cellular level, Nell-1 is suggested to promote osteoblast differentiation.

Materials and Methods: Different levels of Nell-1 were introduced into osteoblastic cells by viral infection and recombinant protein. Apoptosis and gene expression assays were performed. Mice overexpressing Nell-1 were examined for apoptosis.

Results: In this report, we further showed that overexpression of Nell-1 induced apoptosis along with modulation of apoptosis-related genes. The induction of apoptosis by Nell-1 was observed only in osteoblastic cells and not in NIH3T3 or primary fibroblasts. The CS mouse model overexpressing Nell-1 showed increased levels of apoptosis in the calvaria.

Conclusion: We show that Nell-1 expression modulates calvarial osteoblast differentiation and apoptosis pathways. Nell-1 overexpression disrupts these pathways resulting in craniofacial anomalies such as premature suture closure.