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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Expression of alternatively spliced isoforms of human Sp7 in osteoblast-like cells

Maria-athina Milona1, Julie E Gough2 and Alasdair J Edgar3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2 Manchester Materials Science Centre, University of Manchester and UMIST, Grosvenor St., Manchester, M1 7HS, United Kingdom

3 Department of Adult Oral Health, The Institute of Dentistry, Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, Turner Street, London, E1 2AD, United Kingdom

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BMC Genomics 2003, 4:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-4-43

Published: 7 November 2003



Osteogenic and chondrocytic differentiation involves a cascade of coordinated transcription factor gene expression that regulates proliferation and matrix protein formation in a defined temporo-spatial manner. Bone morphogenetic protein-2 induces expression of the murine Osterix/Specificity protein-7 (Sp7) transcription factor that is required for osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Regulation of its expression may prove useful for mediating skeletal repair.


Sp7, the human homologue of the mouse Osterix gene, maps to 12q13.13, close to Sp1 and homeobox gene cluster-C. The first two exons of the 3-exon gene are alternatively spliced, encoding a 431-residue long protein isoform and an amino-terminus truncated 413-residue short protein isoform. The human Sp7 protein is a member of the Sp family having 78% identity with Sp1 in the three, Cys2-His2 type, DNA-binding zinc-fingers, but there is little homology elsewhere. The Sp7 mRNA was expressed in human foetal osteoblasts and craniofacial osteoblasts, chondrocytes and the osteosarcoma cell lines HOS and MG63, but was not detected in adult femoral osteoblasts. Generally, the expression of the short (or beta) protein isoform of Sp7 was much higher than the long (or alpha) protein isoform. No expression of either isoform was found in a panel of other cell types. However, in tissues, low levels of Sp7 were detected in testis, heart, brain, placenta, lung, pancreas, ovary and spleen.


Sp7 expression in humans is largely confined to osteoblasts and chondrocytes, both of which differentiate from the mesenchymal lineage. Of the two protein isoforms, the short isoform is most abundant.