Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are important regulators of the activity of mature osteoblasts, but their effects on osteoprogenitor cells in human bone marrow stroma are unclear. In this study, we assessed the effects of IGFs on a conditionally immortalized human marrow stromal cell line, hMS(3-4), which has the ability to differentiate to either mature osteoblasts or adipocytes. hMS(3-4) cells expressed functional receptors for IGFs as well as specific IGF-binding proteins (IGFBP-3, -4, -5, and -6). IGF treatment of hMS(3-4) cells did not alter IGFBP expression, but resulted in distinct posttranslational modifications of secreted IGFBP-3 and IGFBP-4 proteins. IGF-I, IGF-II, and their receptor-activating analogs significantly increased by 2-fold the proliferation rate of the hMS(3-4) cells, but had a more complex effect on hMS(3-4) cell differentiation. Treatment with IGFs did not affect gene expression of Cbfa1 or peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ2 (transcription factors involved in commitment to osteoblast and adipocyte pathways, respectively), alkaline phosphatase, type I collagen, and osteocalcin (markers of the osteoblast lineage), or lipoprotein lipase and adipsin (markers of the adipocyte lineage) and did not change alkaline phosphatase activity or type I collagen and osteocalcin protein relative to total protein production. In contrast, IGFs significantly increased type I collagen expression in differentiated hMS(3-4) cells as well as mature osteoblasts and promoted lipid accumulation in differentiated adipocytes. In summary, hMS(3-4) cells express essential components of the IGF system and respond to IGF treatment with increased proliferation. There was no evidence for IGFs directly modulating the commitment of hMS(3-4) cells to either osteoblast or adipocyte pathways, and their effects on differentiation within these lineages were dependent on the stage of cell maturation.
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