Targeting integrins to promote bone formation and repair

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013 May;9(5):288-95. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.4. Epub 2013 Jan 29.


The ageing skeleton experiences a progressive decline in the rate of bone formation, which can eventually result in osteoporosis--a common disease characterized by reduced bone mass and altered bone microarchitecture which can result in fractures. One emerging therapy involves the identification of molecules that target bone-marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) and promote their differentiation into osteoblasts, thereby counteracting bone loss. This Review highlights the discovery that some integrins, a family of heterodimeric transmembrane proteins that can interact with matrix proteins and generate intracellular signals, can be targeted to promote homing of MSCs to bone, osteogenic differentiation and bone formation. Specifically, priming of the α(5)β(1) integrin, which is required for osteoblastic differentiation of MSCs, leads to increased bone formation and improved bone repair in mice. Additionally, treatment with a peptidomimetic ligand of the α(4)β(1) integrin coupled to an agent with a high affinity for bone improves the homing of MSCs to bone and promotes osteoblast differentiation and bone formation, leading to increased bone mass in osteopenic mice. Strategies that target key integrins expressed by MSCs might, therefore, translate into improved therapies for age-related bone loss and possibly other disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Regeneration*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Integrins / physiology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Osteoblasts / physiology
  • Osteogenesis*
  • Osteoporosis / therapy
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / drug effects


  • Integrins