Objective: In this study, we measured the expression of R-spondin 2 (RSPO2) in periodontal ligament (PDL) tissue and cells. Further, we examined the effects of RSPO2 on osteoblastic differentiation of immature human PDL cells (HPDLCs). Background: R-spondin (RSPO) family proteins are secreted glycoproteins that play important roles in embryonic development and tissue homeostasis through activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. RSPO2, a member of the RSPO family, has been reported to enhance osteogenesis in mice. However, little is known regarding the roles of RSPO2 in PDL tissues. Methods: Expression of RSPO2 in rat PDL tissue and primary HPDLCs was examined by immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence staining, as well as by semiquantitative RT-PCR. The effects of stretch loading on the expression of RSPO2 and Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK1) were assessed by quantitative RT-PCR. Expression of receptors for RSPOs, such as Leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptors (LGRs) 4, 5, and 6 in immature human PDL cells (cell line 2-14, or 2-14 cells), was investigated by semiquantitative RT-PCR. Mineralized nodule formation in 2-14 cells treated with RSPO2 under osteoblastic inductive condition was examined by Alizarin Red S and von Kossa stainings. Nuclear translocation of β-catenin and expression of active β-catenin in 2-14 cells treated with RSPO2 were assessed by immunofluorescence staining and Western blotting analysis, respectively. In addition, the effect of Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK1), an inhibitor of Wnt/β-catenin signaling, was also examined. Results: Rat PDL tissue and HPDLCs expressed RSPO2, and HPDLCs also expressed RSPO2, while little was found in 2-14 cells. Expression of RSPO2 as well as DKK1 in HPDLCs was significantly upregulated by exposure to stretch loading. LGR4 was predominantly expressed in 2-14 cells, which expressed low levels of LGR5 and LGR6. RSPO2 enhanced the Alizarin Red S and von Kossa-positive reactions in 2-14 cells. In addition, DKK1 suppressed nuclear translocation of β-catenin, activation of β-catenin, and increases of Alizarin Red S and von Kossa-positive reactions in 2-14 cells, all of which were induced by RSPO2 treatment. Conclusion: RSPO2, which is expressed in PDL tissue and cells, might play an important role in regulating the osteoblastic differentiation of immature human PDL cells through the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway.
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