The modulation of macrophage phenotype from pro-inflammatory (M1) to tissue healing (M2) via exogenous addition of interleukin-4 (IL-4) facilitates osteogenesis; however, the molecular mediators underlying this phenomenon remain unknown. This study characterizes the IL-4-dependent paracrine crosstalk between macrophages and osteoprogenitors and its effect on osteogenesis in vitro. Primary murine M1 were co-cultured with MC3T3 cells (M1-MC3T3) in both transwell plates and direct co-cultures. To modulate M1 to M2, M1-MC3T3 were treated with IL-4 (20 ng/mL) at day 3 after seeding (M1 + IL-4-MC3T3). Selected molecular targets were assessed at days 3 and 6 after seeding at protein and mRNA levels. Mineralization was assessed at day 21. Transwell M1 + IL-4-MC3T3 significantly enhanced the secretion of CCL2/MCP-1, IGF-1 and to a lesser degree, CCL5/RANTES at day 6. At day 3, alkaline phosphatase (Alpl) was upregulated in direct M1-MC3T3. At day 6, Smurf2 and Insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) were downregulated and upregulated, respectively, in direct M1 + IL-4-MC3T3. Finally, M1 + IL-4-MC3T3 increased bone matrix mineralization compared with MC3T3 cells in transwell, but this was significantly less than M1-MC3T3. Taken together, macrophage subtypes enhanced the osteogenesis in transwell setting and the transition from M1 to M2 was associated with an increase in bone anabolic factors CCL2/MCP-1, CCL5/RANTES and IGF-1 in vitro.
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