The Role of p53 in the Proliferation and Differentiation of Neural Stem Cells in Organotypic Cultures of Mouse Hippocampus
Bcl-2 is an anti-apoptotic protein that has recently been shown to regulate other cellular functions. We previously reported that Bcl-2 regulates chondrocyte matrix gene expression, independent of its anti-apoptotic function. Here, we further investigate this novel function of Bcl-2 and examine three intracellular signaling pathways likely to be associated with this function. The present study demonstrates that the activity of Sox9, a master transcription factor that regulates the gene expression of chondrocyte matrix proteins, is suppressed by Bcl-2 small interference RNA in the presence of caspase inhibitors. This effect was attenuated by prior exposure of chondrocytes to an adenoviral vector expressing sense Bcl-2. In addition, the down-regulation of Bcl-2, Sox9, and chondrocyte-specific gene expression by serum withdrawal in primary chondrocytes was reversed by expressing Bcl-2. Inhibition of the protein kinase C alpha and NFkappaB pathways had no effect on the maintenance of Sox9-dependent gene expression by Bcl-2. In contrast, whereas the MEK-ERK1/2 pathway negatively regulated the differentiated phenotype in wild type chondrocytes, inhibition of this pathway reversed the loss of differentiation markers and fibroblastic phenotype in Bcl-2-deficient chondrocytes. In conclusion, the present study identifies a specific signaling pathway, namely, MEK-ERK1/2, that is downstream of Bcl-2 in the regulation of Sox9-dependent chondrocyte gene expression and phenotype.