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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Twist haploinsufficiency in Saethre-Chotzen syndrome induces calvarial osteoblast apoptosis due to increased TNFalpha expression and caspase-2 activation.

Saethre-Chotzen syndrome (SCS) is a human autosomal dominant disorder characterized by premature fusion of cranial sutures caused by mutations of the Twist gene encoding a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor. We previously showed that Twist haploinsufficiency caused by a Y103X nonsense mutation in SCS alters both proliferation and osteoblast gene expression in human calvarial osteoblasts, indicating that Twist is an important regulator of osteoblast differentiation. Here we show that Twist haploinsufficiency alters osteoblast apoptosis in SCS. Analysis of terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick-end labelling (TUNEL) demonstrated increased osteoblast and osteocyte apoptosis in coronal sutures from two SCS patients with nonsense mutations (Y103X and Q109X) that result in the synthesis of bHLH-truncated proteins, and one patient with a missense mutation in the basic domain (R118C) that abolishes Twist DNA binding. To assess the mechanisms involved, we studied osteoblast apoptosis in mutant (M-Tw) calvarial cells bearing the Y103X mutation resulting in decreased Twist mRNA and protein levels. M-Tw cells cultured in low serum conditions showed enhanced DNA fragmentation compared to normal (Nl) age-matched calvarial cells. Biochemical analysis showed increased activity of initiator caspases-2 and -8 and downstream effector caspases-3, -6 and -7 in mutant osteoblasts. Caspase-2 was upstream of caspase-8 and effector caspases-3, -6 and -7 because their activities were suppressed by a specific caspase-2 inhibitor. M-Tw osteoblasts also showed increased cytochrome c release from the mitochondria. However, the activity of the downstream effector caspase-9 was not increased due to overexpression of the antagonist protein Hsp70. Detection of differentially expressed genes using cDNA expression array revealed increased Bax and TNFalpha mRNA levels in M-Tw compared to Nl cells, a finding confirmed by RT-PCR and western blot analyses. Neutralization of TNFalpha overexpression using anti-TNFalpha or anti-TNF receptor 1 antibodies abolished the increased activity of caspase-2, caspase-8 and caspases-3, -6 and -7 in M-Tw osteoblasts. These studies provide novel evidence that Twist haploinsufficiency in SCS promotes osteoblast apoptosis by a TNFalpha-caspase-2-caspase-8-caspases-3, -6, -7 cascade, and uncover a molecular mechanism in which Twist plays an anti-apoptotic role in human calvarial osteoblasts.[1]


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