Dexamethasone downregulates the expression of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) in mesenchymal stem cells

Steroids. 2009 Feb;74(2):277-82. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2008.12.002. Epub 2008 Dec 11.


Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) has been shown to have anabolic effects in women with postmenopausal osteoporosis. PTHrP promotes the recruitment of osteogenic cells and prevents apoptotic death of osteoblasts and osteocytes. The receptor responsible for the effects of PTHrP is the common PTH/PTHrP receptor (PTH1R). Glucocorticoids (GC) are commonly used as drugs to treat inflammatory diseases. Long-term GC treatments are often associated with bone loss which can lead to GC-induced osteoporosis. The aim of this work was to study the effects of the glucocorticoid dexamethasone (Dex) on the expression of PTHrP and PTH1R in adult human mesenchymal stem cells, the progenitor cells of osteoblasts. Adult human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) were cultured and differentiated by standard methods. The expression of PTHrP and PTH1R mRNA was assayed by real-time qPCR. The PTHrP release into the culture media was measured by an immunoradiometric assay. Treatment with Dex (10 nM) resulted in an 80% drop in the PTHrP release within 6 h. A 24 h Dex treatment also reduced the expression of PTHrP mRNA by up to 90%. The expression of PTH1R receptor mRNA was simultaneously increased up to 20-fold by 10 nM Dex. The effects of Dex on PTHrP and PTH1R were dose-dependent and experiments with the GC-receptor antagonist mifepristone showed an involvement of GC-receptors in these effects. In addition to the Dex-induced effects on PTHrP and PTH1R, Dex also increased mineralization and the expression of the osteoblast markers Runx2 and alkaline phosphatase. In our studies, we show that dexamethasone decreases the expression of PTHrP and increases the expression of the PTH1R receptor. This could have an impact on PTHrP-mediated anabolic actions on bone and could also affect the responsiveness of circulating PTH. The results indicate that glucocorticoids affect the signalling pathway of PTHrP by regulating both PTHrP and PTH1R expression and these mechanisms could be involved in glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / cytology
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Osteoblasts / cytology
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein / genetics*
  • Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 1 / genetics


  • Glucocorticoids
  • PTH1R protein, human
  • Parathyroid Hormone-Related Protein
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, Parathyroid Hormone, Type 1
  • Dexamethasone