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    Maf promotes osteoblast differentiation in mice by mediating the age-related switch in mesenchymal cell differentiation

    J Clin Invest. 2010 Oct 1;120(10):3455-65.

    These authors demonstrate that age-related decreases in expression of the gene Maf enhances the rate that a common mesenchymal progenitor cell differentiates towards adipocytes and away from osteoblasts. This occurs because lack of MAF inhibits Runx2 and enhances the expression of PPARy.
    Authors: Nishikawa K, Nakashima T, Takeda S, et. al

    Aging leads to the disruption of the homeostatic balance of multiple biological systems. In bone marrow multipotent mesenchymal cells undergo differentiation into various anchorage-dependent cell types, including osteoblasts and adipocytes. With age as well as with treatment of antidiabetic drugs such as thiazolidinediones, mesenchymal cells favor differentiation into adipocytes, resulting in an increased number of adipocytes and a decreased number of osteoblasts, causing osteoporosis. The mechanism behind this differentiation switch is unknown. Here we show an age-related decrease in the expression of Maf in mouse mesenchymal cells, which regulated mesenchymal cell bifurcation into osteoblasts and adipocytes by cooperating with the osteogenic transcription factor Runx2 and inhibiting the expression of the adipogenic transcription factor Pparg. The crucial role of Maf in both osteogenesis and adipogenesis was underscored by in vivo observations of delayed bone formation in perinatal Maf-/- mice and an accelerated formation of fatty marrow associated with bone loss in aged Maf+/- mice. This study identifies a transcriptional mechanism for an age-related switch in cell fate determination and may provide a molecular basis for novel therapeutic strategies against age-related bone diseases.

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