Gaseous signaling molecules such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are produced endogenously and mediate effects through diverse mechanisms. H2S is one such gasotransmitters that regulates multiple signaling pathways in mammalian cells, and abnormal H2S metabolism has been linked to defects in bone homeostasis. Here, we demonstrate that bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMMSCs) produce H2S in order to regulate their self-renewal and osteogenic differentiation, and H2S deficiency results in defects in BMMSC differentiation. H2S deficiency causes aberrant intracellular Ca(2+) influx because of reduced sulfhydration of cysteine residues on multiple Ca(2+) TRP channels. This decreased Ca(2+) flux downregulates PKC/Erk-mediated Wnt/β-catenin signaling which controls osteogenic differentiation of BMMSCs. Consistently, H2S-deficient mice display an osteoporotic phenotype that can be rescued by small molecules that release H2S. These results demonstrate that H2S regulates BMMSCs and that restoring H2S levels via nontoxic donors may provide treatments for diseases such as osteoporosis that can arise from H2S deficiencies.
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