Gli1 identifies osteogenic progenitors for bone formation and fracture repair

Yu Shi, Guangxu He, Wen Chih Lee, Jennifer A. McKenzie, Matthew J. Silva, Fanxin Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Bone formation in mammals requires continuous production of osteoblasts throughout life. A common molecular marker for all osteogenic mesenchymal progenitors has not been identified. Here, by lineage-tracing experiments in fetal or postnatal mice, we discover that Gli1+ cells progressively produce osteoblasts in all skeletal sites. Most notably, in postnatal growing mice, the Gli1+ cells residing immediately beneath the growth plate, termed here “metaphyseal mesenchymal progenitors” (MMPs), are essential for cancellous bone formation. Besides osteoblasts, MMPs also give rise to bone marrow adipocytes and stromal cells in vivo. RNA-seq reveals that MMPs express a number of marker genes previously assigned to mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells, including CD146/Mcam, CD44, CD106/Vcam1, Pdgfra, and Lepr. Genetic disruption of Hh signaling impairs proliferation and osteoblast differentiation of MMPs. Removal of β-catenin causes MMPs to favor adipogenesis, resulting in osteopenia coupled with increased marrow adiposity. Finally, postnatal Gli1+ cells contribute to both chondrocytes and osteoblasts during bone fracture healing. Thus Gli1 marks mesenchymal progenitors responsible for both normal bone formation and fracture repair.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2043
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Gli1 identifies osteogenic progenitors for bone formation and fracture repair'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this