Deletion of glycogen synthase kinase-3β in cartilage results in up-regulation of glycogen synthase kinase-3α protein expression
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The rate of endochondral bone growth determines final height in humans and is tightly controlled. Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3) is a negative regulator of several signaling pathways that govern bone growth, such as insulin/IGF and Wnt/β-catenin. The two GSK-3 proteins, GSK-3α and GSK-3β, display both overlapping and distinct roles in different tissues. Here we show that pharmacological inhibition of GSK-3 signaling in a mouse tibia organ culture system results in enhanced bone growth, accompanied by increased proliferation of growth plate chondrocytes and faster turnover of hypertrophic cartilage to bone. GSK-3 inhibition rescues some, but not all, effects of phosphatidylinositide 3-kinase inhibition in this system, in agreement with the antagonistic role of these two kinases in response to signals such as IGF. However, cartilage-specific deletion of the Gsk3b gene in mice has minimal effects on skeletal growth or development. Molecular analyses demonstrated that compensatory up-regulation of GSK-3α protein levels in cartilage is the likely cause for this lack of effect. To our knowledge, this is the first tissue in which such a compensatory mechanism is described. Thus, our study provides important new insights into both skeletal development and the biology of GSK-3 proteins. Copyright © 2011 by The Endocrine Society.