Inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6, phytic acid) is an endogenous compound present in mammalian cells and tissues. Differentially phosphorylated forms of inositol are well-documented to have important roles in signal transduction, cell proliferation and differentiation, and IP6 in particular has been suggested to inhibit soft tissue calcification (specifically renal and vascular calcification) by binding extracellularly to calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate crystals. However, the effects of IP6 on bone mineralization are largely unknown. In this study, we used MC3T3-E1 osteoblast cultures to examine the effects of exogenous IP6 on osteoblast function and matrix mineralization. IP6 at physiologic concentrations caused a dose-dependent inhibition of mineralization without affecting cell viability, proliferation or collagen deposition. Osteoblast differentiation markers, including tissue-nonspecific alkaline phosphatase activity, bone sialoprotein and osteocalcin mRNA levels, were not adversely affected by IP6 treatment. On the other hand, IP6 markedly increased protein and mRNA levels of osteopontin, a potent inhibitor of crystal growth and matrix mineralization. Inositol alone (without phosphate), as well as inositol hexakis-sulphate, a compound with a high negative charge similar to IP6, had no effect on mineralization or osteopontin induction. Binding of IP6 to mineral crystals from the osteoblast cultures, as well as to synthetic hydroxyapatite crystals, was confirmed by a colorimetric assay for IP6. In summary, IP6 inhibits mineralization of osteoblast cultures by binding to growing crystals through negatively charged phosphate groups and by induction of inhibitory osteopontin expression. These data suggest that IP6 may regulate physiologic bone mineralization by directly acting extracellularly, and by serving as a specific signal at the cellular level for the regulation of osteopontin gene expression.
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