Background: Enhanced osteoblast-dependent osteoclastogenesis due to inhibition of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-driven osteoprogenitors has been repeatedly implicated in the natural history of cancer-associated osteolytic lesions, but the mechanism of this bone loss is poorly understood.
Methods: We examined the impact of secreted Wnt inhibitors from the Dickkopf (Dkk) family on pluripotent mesenchymal cells undergoing BMP2-induced osteoblastic differentiation.
Results: We found that Dkk1 and -2 restored the Wnt3a-dependent reduction of alkaline phosphatase (ALP), Osterix and p53, indicating that mitigated Wnt/beta-catenin signaling promotes certain aspects of early osteoblastogenesis through the BMP-p53-Osterix-ALP axis. Dkk1 and -2 increased the expression of the osteoclast differentiation factors, receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) and macrophage-colony stimulating factor (M-CSF), upon stimulation with Wnt3a/1,25-dihydroxyvitamine D3 and Wnt3a/BMP2, respectively. The decoy receptor of RANKL, osteoprotegerin (OPG), was down regulated under the latter conditions. These findings indicated that Dkk1 and -2 facilitate osteoclastogenesis by enhancing RANKL/RANK and M-CSF/c-Fms interactions. Dkk4 weakly shared activities of Dkk-1 and -2, whereas Dkk3 was ineffective.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that inhibited Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in BMP2-induced osteoprogenitors in vivo promotes, on balance, the heightened formation of osteoclasts. Focally increased Dkk1 production by tumor cells in the bone may thus lead to focal bone loss.