The BMP2 variant L51P restores the osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stromal cells in the presence of intervertebral disc cells

Eur Cell Mater. 2017 Feb 23:33:197-210. doi: 10.22203/eCM.v033a15.


Spinal fusion is hampered by the presence of remaining intervertebral disc (IVD) tissue and leads to spinal non-union. While the exact mechanism remains unknown, we hypothesise that factors preventing disc ossification, such as antagonists of the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), could be responsible for this process. The objective of this study was to investigate spinal non-union using an in vitro human model with a focus on the BMP signalling components and to identify factors contributing to the incomplete and delayed ossification. Human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) were cocultured with IVD cells in the presence of L51P, a BMP2 variant with osteoinductive potential. The ossification of MSC was evaluated by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity and alizarin red staining. Endogenous expression of major BMP antagonists, namely Gremlin (GREM1), Noggin (NOG) and Chordin (CHRD) was detected in IVD-derived cells, with abundance in nucleus pulposus cells. Osteogenesis of MSC was hindered by IVD cells as shown by reduced alizarin red staining, ALP activity and qPCR. L51P, added to the cocultures, restored mineralisation, blocking the activity of the BMP antagonists secreted by IVD cells. It is possible that the BMP antagonists secreted by IVD cells are responsible for spinal non-unions. The inhibition of BMP antagonists with L51P may result in an efficient and more physiological osteoinduction rather than delivery of exogenous osteogenic factors. Therefore, L51P might represent an attractive therapeutic candidate for bone healing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Bone Matrix / drug effects
  • Bone Matrix / metabolism
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2 / pharmacology*
  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation* / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / enzymology
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteogenesis* / drug effects
  • Tissue Donors
  • Young Adult


  • BMP2 protein, human
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Alkaline Phosphatase