In vertebrates, new bone formation via intramembranous osteogenesis is a critical biological event for development, remodeling, and fracture healing of bones. Chemotaxis of osteoblast lineage cells is an essential cellular process in new bone formation. Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is known to exert chemotactic properties on various cells; however, details of CTGF function in the chemotaxis of osteoblast lineage cells and underlying molecular biological mechanisms have not been clarified. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the chemotactic properties of CTGF and its underlying mechanisms during active bone formation through intramembranous osteogenesis. In our mouse tensile force-induced bone formation model, preosteoblasts were aggregated at the osteogenic front of calvarial bones. CTGF was expressed at the osteogenic front, and functional inhibition of CTGF using a neutralizing antibody suppressed the aggregation of preosteoblasts. In vitro experiments using μ-slide chemotaxis chambers showed that a gradient of CTGF induced chemotaxis of preosteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells, while a neutralizing integrin α5 antibody and a Ras inhibitor inhibited the CTGF-induced chemotaxis of MC3T3-E1 cells. These findings suggest that the CTGF-integrin α5-Ras axis is an essential molecular mechanism to promote chemotaxis of preosteoblasts during new bone formation through intramembranous osteogenesis.
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