Document Type



Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


Identification of a reliable marker of skeletal precursor cells within calcified and soft tissues remains a major challenge for the field. To address this, we used a transgenic model in which osteoblasts can be eliminated by pharmacological treatment. Following osteoblast ablation a dramatic increase in a population of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) positive cells was observed. During early recovery phase from ablation we have detected cells with the simultaneous expression of SMAA and a preosteoblastic 3.6GFP marker, indicating the potential for transition of α-SMA+ cells towards osteoprogenitor lineage. Utilizing α-SMAGFP transgene, α-SMAGFP+ positive cells were detected in the microvasculature and in the osteoprogenitor population within bone marrow stromal cells. Osteogenic and adipogenic induction stimulated expression of bone and fat markers in the α-SMAGFP+ population derived from bone marrow or adipose tissue. In adipose tissue, α-SMA+ cells were localized within the smooth muscle cell layer and in pericytes. After in vitro expansion, α-SMA+/CD45/Sca1+ progenitors were highly enriched. Following cell sorting and transplantation of expanded pericyte/myofibroblast populations, donor-derived differentiated osteoblasts and new bone formation was detected. Our results show that cells with a pericyte/myofibroblast phenotype have the potential to differentiate into functional osteoblasts.


Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 September 1.

Published in final edited form as: Bone. 2008 September; 43(3): 501–510.
Published online 2008 May 10. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2008.04.023.