Some genetic disorders are associated with distinctive facial features, which can aid in diagnosis. While considerable advances have been made in identifying causal genes, relatively little progress has been made toward understanding how a particular genotype results in a characteristic craniofacial phenotype. An example is sclerosteosis/van Buchem disease, which is caused by mutations in the Wnt inhibitor sclerostin (SOST). Affected patients have a high bone mass coupled with a distinctive appearance where the mandible is enlarged and the maxilla is foreshortened. Here, mice carrying a null mutation in Sost were analyzed using quantitative micro-computed tomographic (µCT) imaging and histomorphometric analyses to determine the extent to which the size and shape of craniofacial skeleton were altered. Sost-/- mice exhibited a significant increase in appositional bone growth, which increased the height and width of the mandible and reduced the diameters of foramina. In vivo fluorochrome labeling, histology, and immunohistochemical analyses indicated that excessive bone deposition in the premaxillary suture mesenchyme curtailed overall growth, leading to midfacial hypoplasia. The amount of bone extracellular matrix produced by Sost-/- cells was significantly increased; as a consequence, osteoid seams were evident throughout the facial skeleton. Collectively, these analyses revealed a remarkable fidelity between human characteristics of sclerosteosis/van Buchem disease and the Sost-/- phenotype and provide clues into the conserved role for sclerostin signaling in modulating craniofacial morphology.
Keywords: Wnt signaling pathway; cranial sutures; craniofacial abnormalities; facial bones; periosteum.