Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4/GKLF/EZF) is a zinc finger type of transcription factor highly expressed in the skin, intestine, testis, lung and bone. The role played by Klf4 has been studied extensively in normal epithelial development and maintenance; however, its role in bone cells is unknown. Previous reports showed that Klf4 is expressed in the developing flat bones but its expression diminishes postnatally. We now show that in the developing long bones, Klf4 is expressed in the perichondrium, trabecular osteoblasts and prehypertrophic chondrocytes. In contrast, osteoblasts lining at the surface of the bone collar showed extremely low levels of Klf4 expression. To investigate the possible roles played by Klf4 during skeletal development, we generated transgenic mice expressing Klf4 under mouse type I collagen regulatory sequence. Transgenic mice exhibited severe skeletal deformities and died soon after birth. Transgenic mice showed delayed formation of the calvarial bones; and over-expressing Klf4 in primary mouse calvarial osteoblasts in culture resulted in strong repression of mineralization indicating that this regulation of Klf4 is through an osteoblast-autonomous effect. Surprisingly, long bones of the transgenic mice exhibited delayed marrow cavity formation. Even at E18.5, the presumptive marrow space was occupied by cartilage anlage and invasion of the vascular endothelial cells and osteoclasts were seldom observed. Instead of entering the cartilage anlage, osteoclasts accumulated at the periosteum in the transgenic mice. Significantly, osteocalcin, which is known to chemotact osteoclasts, was up-regulated at the perichindrium as early as E14.5 in the mutants. In vitro studies showed that this induction of osteocalcin by Klf4 was regulated at its transcriptional level. Our results demonstrate that Klf4 regulates normal skeletal development through coordinating the differentiation and migration of osteoblasts, chondrocytes, vascular endothelial cells and osteoclasts.
- Bone marrow