Foxf2 represses bone formation via Wnt2b/β-catenin signaling

Exp Mol Med. 2022 Jun;54(6):753-764. doi: 10.1038/s12276-022-00779-z. Epub 2022 Jun 6.


Differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into osteoblasts is a critical process for proper skeletal development and acquisition/maintenance of bone mass. However, since this regulatory mechanism has not yet been fully elucidated, the treatment of severe osteoporosis and fractures is a challenge. Here, through a comprehensive analysis of gene expression during the differentiation of MSCs into osteoblasts, we show that the forkhead transcription factor Foxf2 is a crucial regulator of this process. Foxf2 expression transiently increased during MSC osteoblastic differentiation. Overexpression of Foxf2 in MSCs inhibited osteoblastic differentiation, and conversely, knockdown of Foxf2 expression promoted this process. Osteoprogenitor-specific Foxf2 knockout mice developed a high bone mass phenotype due to increased bone formation. RNA-seq analysis and molecular experiments revealed that Foxf2 regulation of bone formation is mediated by Wnt2b. Knockdown of Foxf2 in mouse femurs enhanced bone regeneration in vivo. FOXF2 expression was correlated with hip bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with low bone mass. Finally, inhibition of FOXF2 promoted osteoblastic differentiation of human MSCs. This study uncovers a critical role of Foxf2 in the differentiation of MSCs into osteoblasts and provides insight into the pathogenesis associated with bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis and nonunion after fracture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism
  • Osteogenesis / genetics
  • Osteoporosis* / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway*
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxf2 protein, mouse
  • Glycoproteins
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt2b protein, mouse
  • beta Catenin