Estrogen/estrogen receptor alpha signaling in mouse posterofrontal cranial suture fusion

Aaron W. James, Alexander A. Theologis, Samantha A. Brugmann, Yue Xu, Antoine L. Carre, Philipp Leucht, Katherine Hamilton, Kenneth S. Korach, Michael T. Longaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: While premature suture fusion, or craniosynostosis, is a relatively common condition, the cause is often unknown. Estrogens are associated with growth plate fusion of endochondral bones. In the following study, we explore the previously unknown significance of estrogen/estrogen receptor signaling in cranial suture biology. Methodology/Principal Findings: Firstly, estrogen receptor (ER) expression was examined in physiologically fusing (posterofrontal) and patent (sagittal) mouse cranial sutures by quantitative RT-PCR. Next, the cranial suture phenotype of ER alpha and ER beta knockout (αERKO, βERKO) mice was studied. Subsequently, mouse suture-derived mesenchymal cells (SMCs) were isolated; the effects of 17-β estradiol or the estrogen antagonist Fulvestrant on gene expression, osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation were examined in vitro. Finally, in vivo experiments were performed in which Fulvestrant was administered subcutaneously to the mouse calvaria. Results showed that increased ERα but not ERβ transcript abundance temporally coincided with posterofrontal suture fusion. The αERKO but not βERKO mouse exhibited delayed posterofrontal suture fusion. In vitro, addition of 17-β estradiol enhanced both osteogenic and chondrogenic differentiation in suture-derived mesenchymal cells, effects reversible by Fulvestrant. Finally, in vivo application of Fulvestrant significantly diminished calvarial osteogenesis, inhibiting suture fusion. Conclusions/Significance: Estrogen signaling through ERα but not ERβ is associated with and necessary for normal mouse posterofrontal suture fusion. In vitro studies suggest that estrogens may play a role in osteoblast and/or chondrocyte differentiation within the cranial suture complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere7120
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 22 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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