Osteoblasts are derived from two distinct embryonic lineages: cranial neural crest, and mesoderm. Both populations of cells are capable of forming bone and cartilage during fetal development and during adult bone repair, but whether they use equivalent molecular pathways to achieve osteoblast differentiation is unknown. We addressed this question in the context of cranial repair and focused on the role of Wnt signaling in mandibular skeletal healing. Transgenic Wnt reporter mice were used to pinpoint Wnt-responsive cells in the injury callus, and in situ hybridization was used to identify some of the Wnt ligands expressed by cells during the repair process. A gene transfer technique was employed to abrogate Wnt signaling during mandibular healing, and we found that reparative intramembranous ossification requires a functional Wnt pathway. Finally, we evaluated how constitutive activation of the Wnt pathway, caused by mutation of the LRP5 receptor, affected bone repair in the mandible. Taken together, these data underscore the functional requirement for Wnt signaling in cranial skeletal healing.
Corresponding author: Jill A. Helms, DDS, PhD Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Stanford University Medical School, 257 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305-5148. E-mail address: email@example.com