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    Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a debilitating condition that results from traumatic injuries or genetic diseases, for which the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Recently, we have demonstrated the expression of neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and its role in promoting HO formation via mediating endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) of vascular endothelial cells. The current study investigated the role of NT-3 on the surrounding mesenchymal cells and its potential origin throughout HO formation at injured Achilles tendons in rats. We used an Achilles tenotomy to induce HO formation in vivo and cultured primary tendon-derived stem cells (TDSCs) to investigate the underlying mechanisms mediating the osteogenesis in vitro. Furthermore, RAW264.7 cells were employed to identify the origin of NT-3. The mRNA levels of NGF, BDNF, NT-3, and NT-4 and their tyrosine protein kinase (Trk) receptors as well as p75 receptor were elevated at injury sites. NT-3 and TrkC showed the highest induction. Neutralization of the NT-3-induced effects by the pan-Trk inhibitor GNF5837 reduced the expression of bone/cartilage-related genes while injection of NT-3 promoted HO formation with elevated mRNA of bone/cartilage-related markers at injured sites. In vitro, NT-3 accelerated osteogenic differentiation and mineralization of TDSCs through activation of the ERK1/2 and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways. Moreover, the colocalization of NT-3 and macrophages, including M1 and M2 macrophages, was observed in injured sites throughout HO formation, and in vitro studies demonstrated that activated macrophages mediated the secretion of NT-3. In addition, an increasing concentration of serum or supernatant NT-3 was observed both in vivo and in vitro. Depletion of macrophages with clodronate-loaded liposomes reduced HO formation as well as secretion and mRNA expression of NT-3. Our study suggests that macrophage-derived NT-3 may promote HO formation and osteogenesis of TDSCs via the ERK1/2 and PI3K/Akt signaling pathways, which may provide new insights for the therapeutic directions of HO in the future.


    Jie Zhang, Liang Wang, Jun Chu, Xiang Ao, Tao Jiang, Bin Yan, Minjun Huang, Zhongmin Zhang. Macrophage-derived neurotrophin-3 promotes heterotopic ossification in rats. Laboratory investigation; a journal of technical methods and pathology. 2020 May;100(5):762-776

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    PMID: 31896816

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