High-throughput microRNA sequencing was performed during differentiation of MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts to develop working hypotheses for specific microRNAs that control osteogenesis. The expression data show that miR-101a, which targets the mRNAs for the epigenetic enzyme Ezh2 and many other proteins, is highly upregulated during osteoblast differentiation and robustly expressed in mouse calvaria. Transient elevation of miR-101a suppresses Ezh2 levels, reduces tri-methylation of lysine 27 in histone 3 (H3K27me3; a heterochromatic mark catalyzed by Ezh2), and accelerates mineralization of MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts. We also examined skeletal phenotypes of an inducible miR-101a transgene under direct control of doxycycline administration. Experimental controls and mir-101a over-expressing mice were exposed to doxycycline in utero and postnatally (up to 8 weeks of age) to maximize penetrance of skeletal phenotypes. Male mice that over-express miR-101a have increased total body weight and longer femora. MicroCT analysis indicate that these mice have increased trabecular bone volume fraction, trabecular number and trabecular thickness with reduced trabecular spacing as compared to controls. Histomorphometric analysis demonstrates a significant reduction in osteoid volume to bone volume and osteoid surface to bone surface. Remarkably, while female mice also exhibit a significant increase in bone length, no significant changes were noted by microCT (trabecular bone parameters) and histomorphometry (osteoid parameters). Hence, miR-101a upregulation during osteoblast maturation and the concomitant reduction in Ezh2 mediated H3K27me3 levels may contribute to the enhanced trabecular bone parameters in male mice. However, the sex-specific effect of miR-101a indicates that more intricate epigenetic mechanisms mediate physiological control of bone formation and homeostasis.
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