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Open Access Research article

C-type natriuretic peptide regulates endochondral bone growth through p38 MAP kinase-dependent and – independent pathways

Hanga Agoston1, Sameena Khan1, Claudine G James1, J Ryan Gillespie1, Rosa Serra2, Lee-Anne Stanton1 and Frank Beier1*

Author Affiliations

1 CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, N6A 5C1, Canada

2 Department of Cell Biology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA

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BMC Developmental Biology 2007, 7:18  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-7-18

Published: 20 March 2007

Abstract

Background

C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) has recently been identified as an important anabolic regulator of endochondral bone growth, but the molecular mechanisms mediating its effects are not completely understood.

Results

We demonstrate in a tibia organ culture system that pharmacological inhibition of p38 blocks the anabolic effects of CNP. We further show that CNP stimulates endochondral bone growth largely through expansion of the hypertrophic zone of the growth plate, while delaying mineralization. Both effects are reversed by p38 inhibition. We also performed Affymetrix microarray analyses on micro-dissected tibiae to identify CNP target genes. These studies confirmed that hypertrophic chondrocytes are the main targets of CNP signaling in the growth plate, since many more genes were regulated by CNP in this zone than in the others. While CNP receptors are expressed at similar levels in all three zones, cGMP-dependent kinases I and II, important transducers of CNP signaling, are expressed at much higher levels in hypertrophic cells than in other areas of the tibia, providing a potential explanation for the spatial distribution of CNP effects. In addition, our data show that CNP induces the expression of NPR3, a decoy receptor for natriuretic peptides, suggesting the existence of a feedback loop to limit CNP signaling. Finally, detailed analyses of our microarray data showed that CNP regulates numerous genes involved in BMP signaling and cell adhesion.

Conclusion

Our data identify novel target genes of CNP and demonstrate that the p38 pathway is a novel, essential mediator of CNP effects on endochondral bone growth, with potential implications for understanding and treatment of numerous skeletal diseases.