Ectopic calcification is an osteogenic process that leads to the formation of inappropriate bone within intra-articular soft tissues, often in response to injury or surgery. The molecular mechanisms governing this phenotype have yet to be determined. Using a population genetics approach, we identified an association of the kinesin superfamily member 26b (Kif26b) with injury-induced ectopic calcification through quantitative trait locus analysis of recombinant inbred mouse strains, consistent with a genomewide association study that identified KIF26B as a severity locus for ectopic calcification in patients with hip osteoarthritis. Despite these associations of KIF26B with ectopic calcification, its mechanistic role and functional implications have not yet been fully elucidated. Here, we aim to decipher the functional role of KIF26B in osseous and chondrogenic transdifferentiation of human and murine progenitor/stem cells and in a murine model of non-invasive injury-induced intra-articular ectopic calcification. We found that KIF26B ablation via lentivirus-mediated shRNA significantly arrested osteogenesis of progenitor/stem cells and suppressed the expression of typical osteogenic marker genes. Conversely, KIF26B loss-of-function increased chondrogenesis as demonstrated by enhanced Safranin-O staining and by the elevated expression of chondrogenic marker genes. Furthermore, cell function analysis revealed that KIF26B knockdown significantly decreased cell viability and proliferation and induced cellular apoptosis. Mechanistically, loss of osteogenesis was reverted by the addition of a Wnt agonist, SKL2001, demonstrating a role of KIF26B in canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Finally, intra-articular delivery of Kif26b shRNA in B6-129SF2/J mice significantly hampered the development of intra-articular ectopic calcification at 8 weeks after injury compared with mice treated with non-target scrambled shRNA. In summary, these observations highlight that KIF26B plays a crucial role in ectopic bone formation by repressing osteogenesis, but not chondrogenesis, potentially via modulating Wnt/β-catenin signaling. These findings establish KIF26B as a critical determinant of the osteogenic process in pathologic endochondral bone formation and an actionable target for pharmacotherapy to mitigate ectopic calcification (and heterotopic ossification).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-368
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • KIF26B


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