The role of magnesium ions in bone regeneration involves the canonical Wnt signaling pathway

Acta Biomater. 2019 Oct 15:98:246-255. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2019.06.001. Epub 2019 Jun 8.


Magnesium (Mg)-based implants have become of interest to both academia and the medical industry. The attraction largely is due to Mg's biodegradability and ability to enhance bone healing and formation. However, the underlying mechanism of how Mg regulates osteogenesis is still unclear. Based on our previous in vivo and molecular signaling work demonstrating the osteogenic effect of Mg, the current study aims to extend this work at the molecular level especially that we also observed and quantified mineral deposits in the bone marrow space in a rabbit ulna fracture model with Mg plates and screws. Histological analysis and quantitative results of micro-CT showed mineralized deposition and a significant increase in bone volume at 8 weeks and 16 weeks post-operative. These in vivo results led us to focus on studying the effect of Mg2+ on human bone marrow stromal cells (hBMSCs). The data presented in this manuscript demonstrate the activation of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway in hBMSCs when treated with 10 mM Mg2+. With additional Mg2+ present, the protein expression of active β-catenin was significantly increased to a level similar to that of the positive control. Immunocytochemistry and the increased expression of LEF1 and Dkk1, downstream target genes that are controlled directly by active β-catenin, demonstrated the protein translocation and the activation of transcription. Taken together, these data suggest that Mg2+ induces an osteogenic effect in the bone marrow space by activating the canonical Wnt signaling pathway, which in turn causes BMSCs to differentiate toward the osteoblast lineage. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Magnesium (Mg)-based alloys are being studied to be used in the field of implantable medical devices due to its natural biodegradability and the potential ability to promote bone regeneration. Despite many in vivo studies that demonstrated an increased new bone growth by implanting Mg-based devices, the underlying mechanism of this effect is still unclear. In order to safely use Mg-based implants on human and better control the osteogenic effect, it is necessary to understand the corresponding cellular response in the targeted area. The present study provides the rationale to study Mg ions on bone marrow stromal cells and shows the activation of canonical Wnt signaling pathway that promotes osteogenesis by in vivo and in vitro approaches.

Keywords: Bone regeneration; Human bone marrow stromal cells; Magnesium; Osteogenesis; Wnt pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bone Regeneration / drug effects*
  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Ions
  • Magnesium / pharmacology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Rabbits
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / drug effects*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics
  • X-Ray Microtomography
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Ions
  • beta Catenin
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Magnesium