Authors: Behr B, Leucht P, Longaker MT, et. al
Bone healing requires a complex interaction of growth factors that establishes an environment for efficient bone regeneration. Among these, FGFs have been considered important for intrinsic bone-healing capacity. In this study, we analyzed the role of Fgf-9 in long bone repair. One-millimeter unicortical defects were created in tibias of Fgf-9(+/-) and wild-type mice. Histomorphometry revealed that half-dose gene of Fgf-9 markedly reduced bone regeneration as compared with wild-type. Both immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR analysis revealed markedly decreased levels of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), Runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2), osteocalcin, Vega-a, and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) in Fgf-9(+/-) defects. muCT angiography indicated dramatic impairment of neovascularization in Fgf-9(+/-) mice as compared with controls. Treatment with FGF-9 protein promoted angiogenesis and successfully rescued the healing capacity of Fgf-9(+/-) mice. Importantly, although other pro-osteogenic factors [Fgf-2, Fgf-18, and bone morphogenic protein 2 (Bmp-2)] still were present in Fgf-9(+/-) mice, they could not compensate for the haploinsufficiency of the Fgf-9 gene. Therefore, endogenous Fgf-9 seems to play an important role in long bone repair. Taken together our data suggest a unique role for Fgf-9 in bone healing, presumably by initiating angiogenesis through Vegf-a. Moreover, this study further supports the embryonic phenotype previously observed in the developing limb, thus promoting the concept that healing processes in adult organisms may recapitulate embryonic skeletal development.