Dentin matrix protein 1, a target molecule for Cbfa1 in bone, is a unique bone marker gene.
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Dentin matrix protein 1 (Dmp1), a phosphoprotein highly linked to dentin formation, has also been reported to be expressed in the skeleton. However, the role of Dmp1 in skeletal tissues remains unclear. To clarify the role of Dmp1 in bone formation, we characterized the expression profile of Dmp1 in bone and cartilage and examined whether Dmp1 expression was regulated by core-binding factor a1 (Cbfa1). Studies of fetal rat calvarial (FRC) cell cultures showed that the expression of Dmp1 was associated closely with "bone nodule" formation and mineralization in vitro. In situ hybridization studies were performed to examine the spatial and temporal expression patterns of Dmp1 during development in mouse embryos from 12.5 day postcoitus (dpc) to 8 weeks postnatal; these studies showed that Dmp1 first appeared in hypertrophic cartilage cells, followed by osteoblasts, and later was expressed strongly in osteocytes. The expression profiles of Cbfa1 and Dmp1 overlapped in both cartilage and bone during development, with Cbfa1 preceding Dmp1. Examination of Dmp1 expression in Cbfa1-/- mice revealed that Dmp1 was absent in the developing bones of Cbfa1-null mice, whereas there was essentially no change in Dmp1 expression in the arrested tooth bud. Transient transfection studies showed forced expression of Dmp1 under the control of Cbfa1 and gel shift data indicated the presence of a functional osteocalcin-specific element (OSE)-2 response element in the Dmp1 proximal promoter region. However, in vitro promoter studies suggested that regulation of Dmp1 by Cbfa1 was not mediated by direct binding of Cbfa1 to this site and may be through indirect mechanisms. These studies highlight Dmp1 as a unique marker gene for osteoblastic differentiation. The close association of Dmp1 and Cbfa1 in the developing skeleton suggests that Dmp1 may play an important role in bone formation.