Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Isolation and characterization of a novel plasma membrane protein, osteoblast induction factor (obif), associated with osteoblast differentiation

Takashi Kanamoto12, Koji Mizuhashi1, Koji Terada1, Takashi Minami3, Hideki Yoshikawa2 and Takahisa Furukawa1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Developmental Biology, Osaka Bioscience Institute, 6-2-4 Furuedai, Suita, Osaka 565-0874, Japan

2 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Osaka 565-0871, Japan

3 Department of Molecular and Vascular Medicine, The Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, Tokyo 153-8904, Japan

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Developmental Biology 2009, 9:70  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-9-70

Published: 21 December 2009



While several cell types are known to contribute to bone formation, the major player is a common bone matrix-secreting cell type, the osteoblast. Chondrocytes, which plays critical roles at several stages of endochondral ossification, and osteoblasts are derived from common precursors, and both intrinsic cues and signals from extrinsic cues play critical roles in the lineage decision of these cell types. Several studies have shown that cell fate commitment within the osteoblast lineage requires sequential, stage-specific signaling to promote osteoblastic differentiation programs. In osteoblastic differentiation, the functional mechanisms of transcriptional regulators have been well elucidated, however the exact roles of extrinsic molecules in osteoblastic differentiation are less clear.


We identify a novel gene, obif (osteoblast induction factor), encoding a transmembrane protein that is predominantly expressed in osteoblasts. During mouse development, obif is initially observed in the limb bud in a complementary pattern to Sox9 expression. Later in development, obif is highly expressed in osteoblasts at the stage of endochondral ossification. In cell line models, obif is up-regulated during osteoblastic differentiation. Exogenous obif expression stimulates osteoblastic differentiation and obif knockdown inhibits osteoblastic differentiation in preosteblastic MC3T3-E1 cells. In addition, the extracellular domain of obif protein exhibits functions similar to the full-length obif protein in induction of MC3T3-E1 differentiation.


Our results suggest that obif plays a role in osteoblastic differentiation by acting as a ligand.