Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a signaling sphingolipid that also plays crucial roles in bone regeneration. Recently, we reported that the S1P receptors S1PR1 and S1PR2 were mainly expressed in osteoblast-like cells, and that the S1P/S1PR1 signaling pathway up-regulated osteoprotegerin and osteoblast differentiation. However, the involvement of S1P/S1PR2 signaling in osteoblast differentiation is not well understood. Here we investigate the role of S1P/S1PR2-mediated signaling in osteoblast differentiation and clarify the underlying signaling mechanisms. We found that an S1P/S1PR2/Gi-independent signaling pathway activated RhoA activity, leading to phosphorylation of Smad1/5/8 in mouse osteoblast-like MC3T3-E1 cells and primary osteoblasts. Furthermore, this signaling pathway promoted nuclear translocation of Smad4, and increased the amount of Smad6/7 protein in the nucleus. S1P also up-regulated runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2) expression through S1PR2/RhoA/ROCK/Smad1/5/8 signaling. Moreover, we found that S1P partially triggered S1PR2/RhoA/ROCK pathway leading to bone formation in vivo. These findings suggest that S1P induces RhoA activity, leading to the phosphorylation of Smad1/5/8, thereby promoting Runx2 expression and differentiation in osteoblasts. Our findings describe novel molecular mechanisms in S1P/S1PR2-mediated osteoblast differentiation that could aid future studies of bone regeneration.
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