Cell-cell adhesion mediated by cadherins is essential for the function of bone forming cells during osteogenesis. Here, the evidence that N-cadherin is an important regulator of osteoblast differentiation and osteogenesis is reviewed. Osteoblasts express a limited number of cadherins, including the classic N-cadherin. The expression profile of N-cadherin in osteoblasts during bone formation in vivo and in vitro suggests a role of this molecule in osteogenesis. Functional studies using neutralizing antibodies or antisense oligonucleotides indicate that N-cadherin is involved in the control the expression of osteoblast marker gene expression and differentiation. Cleavage of N-cadherin during osteoblast apoptosis also suggests a role of N-cadherin-mediated-cell-cell adhesion in osteoblast survival. Hormonal and local factors that regulate osteoblast function also regulate N-cadherin expression and subsequent cell-cell adhesion associated with osteoblast differentiation or survival. Signaling mechanisms involved in N-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion and osteoblast gene expression have also been identified. Alterations of N-cadherin expression are associated with abnormal osteoblast differentiation and osteogenesis in pathological conditions. These findings indicate that N-cadherin plays a role in normal and pathological bone formation and provide some insight into the process involved in N-cadherin-mediated cell-cell adhesion and differentiation in osteoblasts.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.