Tetranectin is a protein shared by the blood and the extracellular matrix. Tetranectin is composed of four identical, noncovalently bound polypeptides each with a molecular mass of approximately 21 kD. There is some evidence that tetranectin may be involved in fibrinolysis and proteolysis during tissue remodeling, but its precise biological function is not known. Tetranectin is enriched in the cartilage of the shark, but the gene expression pattern in the mammalian skeletal system has not been determined. In the present study we have examined the expression pattern and putative function of tetranectin during osteogenesis. In the newborn mouse, strong tetranectin immunoreactivity was found in the newly formed woven bone around the cartilage anlage in the future bone marrow and along the periosteum forming the cortex. No tetranectin immunoreactivity was found in the proliferating and hypertrophic cartilage or in the surrounding skeletal muscle. Using an in vitro mineralizing system, we examined osteoblastic cells at different times during their growth and differentiation. Tetranectin mRNA appeared in the cultured osteoblastic cells in parallel with mineralization, in a pattern similar to that of bone sialoprotein, which is regarded as one of the late bone differentiation markers. To explore the putative biological role of tetranectin in osteogenesis we established stably transfected cell lines (PC12-tet) overexpressing recombinant tetranectin as evidenced by Northern and Western blot analysis and immunoprecipitation. Both control PC12 cells and PC12-tet cells injected into nude mice produced tumors containing bone material, as evidenced by von Kossa staining for calcium and immunostaining with bone sialoprotein and alkaline phosphatase antiserum. Nude mice tumors established from PC12-tet cells contained approximately fivefold more bone material than those produced by the untransfected PC12 cell line or by the PC12 cells transfected with the expression vector with no insert (Mann Whitney rank sum test, p < 0.01), supporting the notion that tetranectin may play an important direct and/or indirect role during osteogenesis. In conclusion, we have established a potential role for tetranectin as a bone matrix protein expressed in time and space coincident with mineralization in vivo and in vitro.

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