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Foxf1 Knockdown Promotes BMSC Osteogenesis in Part by Activating the Wnt/β-catenin Signalling Pathway and Prevents Ovariectomy-Induced Bone Loss

Gengyang Shen 1, Hui Ren 2, Qi Shang 3, Wenhua Zhao 3, Zhida Zhang 3, Xiang Yu 3, Kai Tang 3, Jingjing Tang 2, Zhidong Yang 2, De Liang 2, Xiaobing Jiang 4

DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.102626

Background: Forkhead box protein f1 (Foxf1) is associated with cell differentiation, and may be a key player in bone homoeostasis. However, the effect of Foxf1 on osteogenesis of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) and ovariectomy-induced bone loss, as well as its clinical implications, is unknown.

Methods: By quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and western blotting, we assayed Foxf1 expression in bone tissue, BMSCs, and bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs), derived from ovariectomised (OVX) mice, and during osteogenic differentiation and osteoclast differentiation. Using a loss-of-function approach (small interfering RNA [siRNA]-mediated knockdown) in vitro, we examined whether Foxf1 regulates osteoblast differentiation of BMSCs via the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway. Furthermore, we assessed the anabolic effect of Foxf1 knockdown (siFoxf1) in OVX mice in vivo. We also assayed the expression of Foxf1 in bone tissue derived from postmenopausal osteoporosis (PMOP) patients and its link with bone mineral density (BMD). Finally, we examined the effect of Foxf1 knockdown on the osteoblastic differentiation of human BMSCs.

Findings: Foxf1 expression was significantly increased in bone extract and BMSCs from OVX mice and gradually decreased during osteoblastic differentiation of BMSCs but did not differ significantly in OVX mouse-derived BMMs or during osteoclast differentiation. In vitro, Foxf1 knockdown markedly increased the expression of osteoblast specific genes, alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, and mineralisation. Moreover, siFoxf1 activated the Wnt/β-catenin signalling pathway. The siFoxf1-induced increase in osteogenic differentiation was partly rescued by inhibitor of Wnt signalling (DKK1). In OVX mice, Foxf1 siRNA significantly reduced bone loss by enhancing bone formation. Foxf1 expression levels negatively correlated with reduced bone mass and bone formation in bone tissue from PMOP patients. Finally, Foxf1 knockdown significantly promoted osteogenesis by human BMSCs.

Interpretation: Our findings indicate that Foxf1 knockdown promotes BMSC osteogenesis and prevents OVX-induced bone loss. Therefore, Foxf1 has potential as a biomarker of osteogenesis and may be a therapeutic target for PMOP.