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Chronic glucocorticoid therapy causes rapid bone loss and clinical osteoporosis. We found that although the glucocorticoid, dexamethasone, stimulated osteoblast maturation, it also inhibited proliferation of a preosteoblastic cell line, MBA-15.4. The dexamethasone-induced decline in preosteoblast proliferation correlated with a 30-40% reduction in protein kinase C/TPA-stimulated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity. These steroid effects only became evident after 6-24 h treatment, implying that dexamethasone acts on de novo synthesis of proteins. Because MAPK is inactivated by dephosphorylation of tyrosine and threonine residues, cells were treated concomitantly for 24 h with dexamethasone and inhibitors of tyrosine (sodium orthovanadate) and/or serine/threonine phosphatases (sodium fluoride). MAPK activity and cell proliferation were restored when MBA-15.4 cells were treated with vanadate, suggesting that dexamethasone up-regulates tyrosine phosphatase activity. Inactivation of serine/threonine phosphatases with sodium fluoride had no effect. Inhibition of the PKA pathway (which is growth inhibitory in mature osteoblasts) with H-89 did not reverse the effects of dexamethasone. Pretreatment with dexamethasone inhibited both peak- and extended activation plateau-phases of MAPK activity. Both phases were fully restored by pretreatment with vanadate, implicating more than one tyrosine phosphatase. Cycloheximide, alone or in combination with dexamethasone, prevented drop-off from plateau to basal levels, suggesting that an inducible dual-specificity phosphatase regulates the plateau-phase. We conclude that dexamethasone may inhibit preosteoblast growth via a novel tyrosine phosphatase pathway.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2423 - 2431


Animals, Calcium-Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinases, Cell Division, Cell Line, Cycloheximide, Dexamethasone, Enzyme Inhibitors, Glucocorticoids, Kinetics, Mice, Osteoblasts, Phosphoprotein Phosphatases, Protein Kinase C, Protein Synthesis Inhibitors, Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases, Stem Cells, Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate, Vanadates