Meteorin-like protein (Metrnl), homologous to the initially identified neurotrophic factor Meteorin, is a secreted, multifunctional protein. Here we used mouse models to investigate Metrnl's role in skeletal development and bone fracture healing. During development Metrnl was expressed in the perichondrium and primary ossification center. In neonates, single cell RNA-seq of diaphyseal bone demonstrated strongest expression of Metrnl transcript by osteoblasts. In vitro, Metrnl was osteoinductive, increasing osteoblast differentiation and mineralization in tissue culture models. In vivo, loss of Metrnl expression resulted in no change in skeletal metrics in utero, at birth, or during postnatal growth. Six-week-old Metrnl-null mice displayed similar body length, body weight, tibial length, femoral length, BV/TV, trabecular number, trabecular thickness, and cortical thickness as littermate controls. In 4-month-old mice, lack of Metrnl expression did not change structural stiffness, ultimate force, or energy to fracture of femora under 3-point-bending. Last, we investigated the role of Metrnl in bone fracture healing. Metrnl expression increased in response to tibial injury, however, loss of Metrnl expression did not affect the amount of bone deposited within the healing tissue nor did it change the structural parameters of healing tissue. This work identifies Metrnl as a dispensable molecule for skeletal development. However, the osteoinductive capabilities of Metrnl may be utilized to modulate osteoblast differentiation in cell-based orthopedic therapies.
Keywords: Meteorin-like; bone; fracture healing; osteoblast; skeletal development.
© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Orthopaedic Research® published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Orthopaedic Research Society.