BMP2-Induced inflammation can be suppressed by the osteoinductive growth factor NELL-1

Jia Shen, Aaron James, Janette N. Zara, Greg Asatrian, Kevork Khadarian, James B. Zhang, Stephanie Ho, Hyun Ju Kim, Kang Ting, Chia Soo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Bone-morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) is currently the only Food and Drug Administration-approved osteoinductive growth factor used in clinical settings for bone regeneration and repair. However, the use of BMP2 is encumbered by numerous clinical complications, including postoperative inflammation and life-threatening cervical swelling. Thus, methods to prevent BMP2-induced inflammation would have far-reaching clinical implications toward improving current BMP2-based methods for bone regeneration. For the first time, we investigate the potential role of the growth factor Nel-like molecule-1 (NELL-1) in inhibiting BMP2-induced inflammation. Adult rats underwent a femoral bone onlay procedure, treated with either BMP2 protein (4 mg/mL), NELL-1 protein (4 mg/mL), or both proteins combined. Animals were evaluated at 3, 7, and 14 days postoperatively by histology, histomorphometry, immunohistochemistry, and real-time PCR for markers of inflammation (TNFα, IL6). The relative levels of TNFα and IL6 in serum were also detected by ELISA. The mechanism for NELL-1's anti-inflammatory effect was further assessed through examining inflammatory markers and generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mouse embryonic fibroblast NIH3T3 cells. BMP2 significantly induced local inflammation, including an early and pronounced polymorphonuclear cell infiltration accompanied by increased expression of TNFα and IL6. Treatment with NELL-1 alone elicited no significant inflammatory response. However, NELL-1 significantly attenuated BMP2-induced inflammation by all markers and at all timepoints. These local findings were also confirmed using systemic serum inflammatory biomarkers (TNFα, IL6). In each case, NELL-1 fully reversed BMP2-induced systemic inflammation. Lastly, our findings were recapitulated in vitro, where NELL-1 suppressed BMP2 induced expression of inflammatory markers, as well as NF-κB transcriptional activity and generation of ROS. BMP2-induced inflammation is a serious public health concern with potentially life-threatening complications. In the present study, we observed that the growth factor, NELL-1, significantly attenuates or completely reverses BMP2-induced inflammation. The mechanisms of NELL-1's anti-inflammatory effect are only partially elucidated, and may include reduction of NF-κB transcriptional activity or ROS generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2390-2401
Number of pages12
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number21-22
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials

Cite this

Shen, J., James, A., Zara, J. N., Asatrian, G., Khadarian, K., Zhang, J. B., ... Soo, C. (2013). BMP2-Induced inflammation can be suppressed by the osteoinductive growth factor NELL-1. Tissue Engineering - Part A, 19(21-22), 2390-2401.