Osteoblast induction and differentiation in developing long bones is dynamically controlled by the opposing action of transcriptional activators and repressors. In contrast to the long list of activators that have been discovered over past decades, the network of repressors is not well-defined. Here we identify the expression of Foxp1/2/4 proteins, comprised of Forkhead-box (Fox) transcription factors of the Foxp subfamily, in both perichondrial skeletal progenitors and proliferating chondrocytes during endochondral ossification. Mice carrying loss-of-function and gain-of-function Foxp mutations had gross defects in appendicular skeleton formation. At the cellular level, over-expression of Foxp1/2/4 in chondroctyes abrogated osteoblast formation and chondrocyte hypertrophy. Conversely, single or compound deficiency of Foxp1/2/4 in skeletal progenitors or chondrocytes resulted in premature osteoblast differentiation in the perichondrium, coupled with impaired proliferation, survival, and hypertrophy of chondrocytes in the growth plate. Foxp1/2/4 and Runx2 proteins interacted in vitro and in vivo, and Foxp1/2/4 repressed Runx2 transactivation function in heterologous cells. This study establishes Foxp1/2/4 proteins as coordinators of osteogenesis and chondrocyte hypertrophy in developing long bones and suggests that a novel transcriptional repressor network involving Foxp1/2/4 may regulate Runx2 during endochondral ossification.
Keywords: Endochondral ossification; Foxp1; Foxp2; Foxp4; Osteoblast; Transcriptional repressor.
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