Freeze-dried Saos-2, human osteosarcoma cells, and extracts of Saos-2 cells contain all components necessary to induce ectopic new bone and marrow when implanted into athymic Nu/Nu nuce. On the other hand, human osteosarcoma cells of the U-2 OS strain failed to induce bone formation under the same experimental conditions. Our aim was to compare the relative expressions of known osteoinductive factors including bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) in these two cell lines in an attempt to explain the unique bone-inducing ability of the Saos-2 cells. Saos-2 cells expressed mRNA for BMP-1, -2, -3, -4, -6, and TGF-β1. The non-osteoinductive U-2 OS cells expressed BMP-2, -4, -5, -6, and -7 as well as TGF-β1 mRNA, while levels of BMP-1 and BMP-3 mRNA were either not detectable or detectable at a very low level in U-2 OS cells. The presence of BMP-1 and -4 protein was confirmed in Saos-2 cells by immunofluorescence, and TGFβ protein was demonstrated by bioassay in both cell types. These findings suggest that Saos-2 cells are endowed qualitatively and quantitatively with sufficient amounts of many bone morphogenetic proteins - especially BMP-1, -3, and -4 - to confer osteoinductivity upon these cells. However, the absence of osteoinductivity in U-2 OS cells, despite significant mRNA expression levels of several bone morphogenetic proteins, suggests that, even though expression of one or more bone morphogenetic proteins may be present, it may not necessarily be sufficient to confer osteoinductivity upon U-2 OS cells. U-2 OS cells may be non-osteoinductive because (1) they contain inhibitors to the BMPs or secrete inhibitory binding proteins, (2) they do not process BMPs correctly, or (3) the BMPs are inappropriately localized and sequestered within the U-2 OS cells. Saos 2 cells may be osteoinductive because (1) they uniquely express BMP-1, (2) they express an appropriate combination of interactive BMPs at appropriate levels, and/or (3) the Saos-2 cells elaborate asyet -unidentified osteoinductive factor(s).
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