Bone cells respond to mechanical stimulation. This is thought to be the mechanism by which bone adapts to mechanical loading. Reported responses of bone cells to mechanical stimuli vary widely and therefore there is no consensus on what mechanisms of mechanotransduction are physiologically relevant. We hypothesize that the differentiation stage of osteoblastic cells used to study responses to strain in vitro determines the outcome of applied loading. A human fetal osteoblast cell line was triggered to differentiate in culture to the advanced state of mineralization by addition of the osteogenic factors dexamethasone and b-glycerophosphate. Osteoblast cultures were subjected to increasing levels of cyclic, equibiaxial stretch at different stages of differentiation. We show that differentiation of human osteoblasts affects their responses to stretch in vitro. In 7-day osteoblast cultures, stretch results in decreased cell numbers as cells are triggered into apoptosis, independent of the stretch level (between 0.4-2.5%). In more mature cultures, apoptosis is not affected by the same treatment. Stretching differentiating cultures at day 14 actually increases proliferation. This is the first study reporting on differentiation-dependent mechanical control of osteoblast proliferation and apoptosis and is fundamental in understanding mechanotransduction processes in bone. The tight regulation of these responses by differentiation implies the significance of the differentiation stage of osteoblasts for the translation of mechanical signals and corroborates with the putative role of the osteoblastic lineage as mechanotransducer in bone.

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Calcified Tissue International
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Weyts, F., Bosmans, B., Niesing, R., van Leeuwen, H., & Weinans, H. (2003). Mechanical control of human osteoblast apoptosis and proliferation in relation to differentiation. Calcified Tissue International, 72(4), 505–512. doi:10.1007/s00223-002-2027-0