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J Anat. December 1, 2017; 231 (6): 823-834.

Expression and functional proteomic analyses of osteocytes from Xenopus laevis tested under mechanical stress conditions: preliminary observations on an appropriate new animal model.

Bertacchini J , Benincasa M , Checchi M , Cavani F , Smargiassi A , Ferretti M , Palumbo C .

Hitherto, the role of the osteocyte as transducer of mechanical stimuli into biological signals is far from settled. In this study, we used an appropriate model represented by the cortex of Xenopus laevis long bone diaphysis lacking (unlike the mammalian one) of vascular structures and containing only osteocytes inside the bone matrix. These structural features allow any change of protein profile that might be observed upon different experimental conditions, such as bone adaptation to stress/mechanical loading, to be ascribed specifically to osteocytes. The study was conducted by combining ultrastructural observations and two-dimensional electrophoresis for proteomic analysis. The osteocyte population was extracted from long bones of lower limbs of amphibian skeletons after different protocols (free and forced swimming). The experiments were performed on 210 frogs subdivided into five trials, each including free swimming frogs (controls) and frogs submitted to forced swimming (stressed). The stressed groups were obliged to swim (on movable spheres covering the bottom of a pool on a vibrating plate) continuously for 8 h, and killed 24 h later along with the control groups. Long bones free of soft tissues (periosteum, endosteum and bone marrow), as well as muscles of posterior limbs, were processed and analyzed for proteins differentially expressed or phosphorylated between the two sample groups. The comparative analysis showed that protein phosphorylation profiles differ between control and stressed groups. In particular, we found in long bones of stressed samples that both Erk1/2 and Akt are hyperphosphorylated; moreover, the different phosphorylation of putative Akt substrates (recognized by specific Akt phosphosubstrates-antibody) in stressed vs. control samples clearly demonstrated that Akt signaling is boosted by forced swimming (leading to an increase of mechanical stress) of amphibian long bones. In parallel, we found in posterior limb muscles that the expression of heat shock protein HSP27 and HSP70 stress markers increased upon the forced swimming condition. Because the cortexes of frog long bones are characterized by the presence of only osteocytes, all our results establish the suitability of the X. laevis animal model to study the bone response to stress conditions mediated by this cell type and pave the way for further analysis of the signaling pathways involved in these signal transduction mechanisms.

PubMed ID: 28925539
PMC ID: PMC5696140
Article link: J Anat.

Genes referenced: akt1 hsp70 mapk1

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