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NO Vidal, S Ekberg, S Enerback, A Lindahl and C Ohlsson

The transcription factor C/EBP alpha, a member of the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein family, is highly expressed in the liver and in adipose tissue. The aim of this study was to determine if C/EBP alpha is expressed in rat growth cartilage. The expression pattern of C/EBP alpha in monolayer-cultured growth plate chondrocytes was similar to that of C/EBP alpha during hepatocyte and preadipocyte differentiation. Immunohistochemistry with a polyclonal antibody for C/EBP alpha revealed that the C/EBP alpha protein is present in the perichondrial ring, in the germinal layer of the growth plate and on the surface of the articular cartilage. The growth hormone (GH) receptor has a similar distribution in the rat tibial growth plate, and hypophysectomised rats were used to investigate a possible connection between C/EBP alpha and GH. C/EBP alpha mRNA levels were decreased in rib cartilage after hypophysectomy. However, GH treatment did not counteract this effect, indicating that other pituitary hormones regulate the C/EBP alpha mRNA levels in growth plate cartilage. We thus demonstrate, for the first time, that C/EBP alpha is expressed in cartilage. The finding that C/EBP alpha, like the GH receptor, is predominantly expressed in stem cell areas of the rat growth plate indicates a possible functional role for C/EBP alpha during early chondrogenic differentiation.

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NO Vidal, H Brandstrom, KB Jonsson and C Ohlsson

Osteoprotegerin (OPG) is a recently cloned member of the tumour necrosis factor receptor family. It has been suggested that this secreted glycoprotein acts as an inhibitor of osteoclastic differentiation. Expression of OPG has previously been demonstrated in a number of tissues. However, it is still unclear whether or not OPG is expressed by human osteoblasts. We have used the RNase protection assay to demonstrate the OPG transcript in primary cultured human osteoblast-like cells, human marrow stroma cells and osteosarcoma cell lines. Furthermore, we have studied the effect of glucocorticoids on OPG mRNA levels in these cells. We demonstrate that glucocorticoids decrease the OPG transcript in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The time-course study reveals that hydrocortisone (10(-6) M) decreases OPG mRNA levels within 2 h. This decrease is transient, reaching control levels again after 24 h. Our findings demonstrate that human osteoblasts express the mRNA corresponding to OPG, an inhibitor of osteoclast differentiation. The finding that OPG mRNA levels are decreased by glucocorticoids indicates that a reduced production of OPG from osteoblasts and/or marrow stroma cells could, in part, explain glucocorticoid-induced bone resorption.