Wnt/ß-catenin-mediated p53 suppression is indispensable for osteogenesis of mesenchymal progenitor cells

Xin Zhou, Allyson Beilter, Zhaohui Xu, Ruli Gao, Shunbin Xiong, Adriana Paulucci-Holthauzen, Guillermina Lozano, Benoit de Crombrugghe, Richard Gorlick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The developmental origins of mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs) and molecular machineries regulating their fate and differentiation are far from defined owing to their complexity. Osteoblasts and adipocytes are descended from common MPCs. Their fates are collectively determined by an orchestra of pathways in response to physiological and external cues. The canonical Wnt pathway signals MPCs to commit to osteogenic differentiation at the expense of adipogenic fate. In contrast to ß-catenin, p53’s anti-osteogenic function is much less understood. Both activities are thought to be achieved through targeting Runx2 and/or Osterix (Osx, Sp7) transcription. Precisely, how Osx activity is dictated by ß-catenin or p53 is not clarified and represents a knowledge gap that, until now, has largely been taken for granted. Using conditional lineage-tracing mice, we demonstrated that chondrocytes gave rise to a sizable fraction of MPCs, which served as progenitors of chondrocyte-derived osteoblasts (Chon-ob). Wnt/ß-catenin activity was only required at the stage of chondrocyte-derived mesenchymal progenitor (C-MPC) to Chon-ob differentiation. ß-catenin C-MPCs lost osteogenic ability and favored adipogenesis. Mechanistically, we discovered that p53 activity was elevated in ß-catenin MPCs including ß-catenin C-MPCs and deleting p53 from the ß-catenin MPCs fully restored osteogenesis. While high levels of p53 were present in the nuclei of ß-catenin MPCs, Osx was confined to the cytoplasm, implying a mechanism that did not involve direct p53-Osx interaction. Furthermore, we found that p53’s anti-osteogenic activity was dependent on its DNA-binding ability. Our findings identify chondrocytes as an additional source for MPCs and indicate that Wnt/ß-catenin discretely regulates chondrocyte to C-MPC and the subsequent C-MPC to osteoblast developments. Most of all we unveil a previously unrecognized functional link between ß-catenin and p53, placing p53’s negative role in the context of Wnt/ß-catenin signaling-induced MPC osteogenic differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number521
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 21 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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