A recombinant human TGF-beta1 fusion protein with collagen-binding domain promotes migration, growth, and differentiation of bone marrow mesenchymal cells

J A Andrades, B Han, J Becerra, N Sorgente, F L Hall, M E Nimni
Experimental Cell Research 1999 August 1, 250 (2): 485-98
A continuous source of osteoblasts for normal bone maintenance, as well as remodeling and regeneration during fracture repair, is ensured by the mesenchymal osteoprogenitor stem cells of the bone marrow (BM). The differentiation and maturation of osteoprogenitor cells into osteoblasts are thought to be modulated by transforming growth factors-beta (TGF-beta1 and TGF-beta2) and TGF-beta-related bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). To define the responses of mesenchymal osteoprogenitor stem cells to several growth factors (GFs), we cultured Fischer 344 rat BM cells in a collagen gel medium containing 0.5% fetal bovine serum for prolonged periods of time. Under these conditions, survival of BM mesenchymal stem cells was dependent on the addition of GFs. Recombinant hTGF-beta1-F2, a fusion protein engineered to contain an auxiliary collagen binding domain, demonstrated the ability to support survival colony formation and growth of the surviving cells, whereas commercial hTGF-beta1 did not. Initially, cells were selected from a whole BM cell population and captured inside a collagen network, on the basis of their survival response to added exogenous GFs. After the 10-day selection period, the surviving cells in the rhTGF-beta1-F2 test groups proliferated rapidly in response to serum factors (10% FBS), and maximal DNA synthesis levels were observed. Upon the addition of osteoinductive factors, osteogenic differentiation in vitro was evaluated by the induction of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) expression, the production of osteocalcin (OC), and the formation of mineralized matrix. Concomitant with a down-regulation of cell proliferation, osteoinduction is marked by increased ALP expression and the formation of colonies that are competent for mineralization. During the induction period, when cells organize into nodules and mineralize, the expression of OC was significantly elevated along with the onset of extracellular matrix mineralization. Differentiation of BM mesenchymal stem cells into putative bone cells as shown by increased ALP, OC synthesis, and in vitro mineralization required the presence of specific GFs, as well as dexamethasone (dex) and beta-glycerophosphate (beta-GP). Although rhTGF-beta1-F2-selected cells exhibited the capacity to mineralize, maximal ALP activity and OC synthesis were observed in the presence of rhBMPs. We further report that a novel rhTGF-beta1-F2 fusion protein, containing a von Willebrand's factor-derived collagen binding domain combined with a type I collage matrix, is able to capture, amplify, and stimulate the differentiation of a population of cells present in rat BM. When these cells are subsequently implanted in inactivated demineralized bone matrix (iDBM) and/or diffusion chambers into older rats they are able to produce bone and cartilage. The population of progenitor cells captured by rhTGF-beta1-F2 is distinct from the committed progenitor cells captured by rhBMPs, which exhibit a considerably more differentiated phenotype.

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