Dkk-1-derived synthetic peptides and lithium chloride for the control and recovery of adult stem cells from bone marrow. Academic Article uri icon


  • It is established that human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) from bone marrow are a source of osteoblast progenitors in vivo and under appropriate conditions, differentiate into osteoblasts ex vivo. Because hMSCs are recovered by iliac crest aspirate and enriched by virtue of their adherence to tissue culture plastic, the cells provide a convenient ex vivo model for the study of osteogenic tissue repair in an experimentally accessible system. Recent advances in the field of skeletal development and osteogenesis have demonstrated that signaling through the canonical wingless (Wnt) pathway is critical for the differentiation of progenitor cell lines into osteoblasts. Inhibition of such signals can predispose MSCs to cell cycle entry and inhibit osteogenesis. Here, we report that synthetic peptides derived from the second cysteine-rich domain of the canonical Wnt inhibitor Dickkopf-1 (Dkk-1) have utility in controlling the growth and recovery of hMSCs from bone marrow stroma. Three peptides corresponding to residues 217-269 in Dkk-1 were each found to enhance the proliferation of hMSCs in culture over 2 days. The most active peptide exhibited agonistic characteristics in that it ablated the proliferation lag observed when cultures of hMSCs receive fresh medium. It also reduced the expression of endogenous Dkk-1 (Gregory, C. A., Singh, H., and Prockop, D. J. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278, 28067-28078). When the cytosolic level of beta-catenin was elevated by addition of LiCl to cultures of hMSCs, the peptide also accelerated degradation of beta-catenin on withdrawal of lithium. A second peptide, corresponding to residues 184-204 had preferential and high affinity for hMSCs in the log phase of proliferation. Peptide overlay assays on hMSC lysates confirmed that the peptide bound to a 184-kDa protein corresponding to the molecular mass of LRP6. Cells recovered by this peptide had enhanced osteogenic potential but less chondrogenic potential compared with controls. Because Wnt antagonists increase the number of non-committed hMSCs in culture, they may be of use in increasing the rate of osseous wound healing in vivo by increasing the level of systemically migrating hMSCs. Therefore, such molecules could contribute to the development of a novel family of pharmaceutical agents for the improvement of the healing process in humans.

published proceedings

  • J Biol Chem

altmetric score

  • 11.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Gregory, C. A., Perry, A. S., Reyes, E., Conley, A., Gunn, W. G., & Prockop, D. J

citation count

  • 77

complete list of authors

  • Gregory, Carl A||Perry, Anthony S||Reyes, Emigdio||Conley, Adam||Gunn, W Grady||Prockop, Darwin J

publication date

  • January 2005