Osteoblast-derived EGFL6 couples angiogenesis to osteogenesis during bone repair

Kai Chen, Shijie Liao, Yicheng Li, Haibo Jiang, Yun Liu, Chao Wang, Vincent Kuek, Jacob Kenny, Boxiang Li, Qian Huang, Jianxin Hong, Yan Huang, Shek Man Chim, Jennifer Tickner, Nathan J. Pavlos, Jinmin Zhao, Qian Liu, An Qin, Jiake Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Angiogenesis and osteogenesis are highly coupled processes which are indispensable to bone repair. However, the underlying mechanism(s) remain elusive. To bridge the gap in understanding the coupling process is crucial to develop corresponding solutions to abnormal bone healing. Epidermal growth factor-like protein 6 (EGFL6) is an angiogenic factor specifically and distinctively up-regulated during osteoblast differentiation. In contrast with most currently known osteoblast-derived coupling factors, EGFL6 is highlighted with little or low expression in other cells and tissues. Methods: In this study, primary bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and osteoblastic cell line (MC3T3-E1) were transduced with lentiviral silencing or overexpression constructs targeting EGFL6. Cells were induced by osteogenic medium, followed by the evaluation of mineralization as well as related gene and protein expression. Global and conditional knockout mice were established to examine the bone phenotype under physiological condition. Furthermore, bone defect models were created to investigate the outcome of bone repair in mice lacking EGFL6 expression. Results: We show that overexpression of EGFL6 markedly enhances osteogenic capacity in vitro by augmenting bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-Smad and MAPK signaling, whereas downregulation of EGFL6 diminishes osteoblastic mineralization. Interestingly, osteoblast differentiation was not affected by the exogenous addition of EGFL6 protein, thereby indicating that EGFL6 may regulate osteoblastic function in an intracrine manner. Mice with osteoblast-specific and global knockout of EGFL6 surprisingly exhibit a normal bone phenotype under physiological conditions. However, EGFL6-deficiency leads to compromised bone repair in a bone defect model which is characterized by decreased formation of type H vessels as well as osteoblast lineage cells. Conclusions: Together, these data demonstrate that EGFL6 serves as an essential regulator to couple osteogenesis to angiogenesis during bone repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9738-9751
Number of pages14
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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