BACKGROUND: Osteoblasts and adipocytes share a common mesenchymal stem cell origin. Therefore, it has been suggested that the accumulation of marrow adipocytes observed in bone loss is caused by a shift in the commitment of mesenchymal stem cells from the osteogenic pathway to the adipogenic pathway. Supporting this hypothesis the competition between adipogenic and osteogenic lineages was widely demonstrated on partially homogeneous cell populations. However, some data from mouse models showed the existence of an independent relationship between bone mineral content and bone marrow adiposity. Therefore, the combination of adipogenesis and osteogenesis in primary culture would be helpful to determine if this competition would be observed on a whole bone marrow stromal cell population in a culture medium allowing both lineages. In this aim, mouse bone marrow stromal cells were cultured in a standard osteogenic medium added with different concentrations of Dexamethasone, known to be an important regulator of mesenchymal progenitor cell differentiation.RESULTS: Gene expression of osteoblast and adipocyte markers, biochemical and physical analyses demonstrated the presence of both cell types when Dexamethasone was used at 100 nM. Overall, our data showed that in this co-differentiation medium both differentiation lineages were enhanced compared to classical adipogenic or osteogenic culture medium. This suggests that in this model, adipocyte phenotype does not seem to increase at the expense of the osteoblast lineage.CONCLUSION: This model appears to be a promising tool to study osteoblast and adipocyte differentiation capabilities and the interactions between these two processes
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