Osterix, a zinc-finger-containing transcription factor, is required for osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Osterix is also expressed in dental mesenchymal cells of the tooth germ. However, transcriptional regulation by Osterix in tooth development is not clear. Genetic studies in osteogenesis place Osterix downstream of Runx2 (Runt-related 2). The expression of Osterix in odontoblasts overlaps with Runx3 during terminal differentiation in vivo. Runx3 down-regulates Osterix expression in mouse DPCs (dental pulp cells). Therefore the regulatory role of Runx3 on Osterix expression in tooth development was investigated. Enforced expression of Runx3 down-regulated the activity of the Osterix promoter in the human embryonic kidney 293 cell line. When the Runx3 responsive element on the Osterix promoter, located at −713 to −707 bp (site 3, AGTGGTT) relative to the cap site, was mutated, this down-regulation was abrogated. Furthermore, electrophoretic mobility-shift assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays in mouse DPCs demonstrated direct functional binding of Runx3 to the Osterix promoter. These results demonstrate the transcriptional regulation of Osterix expression by Runx3 during differentiation of dental pulp cells into odontoblasts during tooth development.

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