This study investigated the role of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression by donor and host cells in muscle-derived stem cell (MDSC)-mediated bone regeneration utilizing a critical size calvarial defect model. We found that BMP4/green fluorescent protein (GFP)-transduced MDSCs formed significantly less bone in COX-2 knock-out (Cox-2KO) than in COX-2 wild-type (WT) mice. BMP4/GFP-transduced Cox-2KO MDSCs also formed significantly less bone than transduced WT MDSCs when transplanted into calvarial defects created in CD-1 nude mice. The impaired bone regeneration in the Cox-2KO MDSCBMP4/GFP group is associated with downregulation of BMP4-pSMAD1/5 signaling, decreased osteogenic differentiation and lowered proliferation capacity after transplantation, compared with WT MDSCBMP4/GFP cells. The Cox-2KO MDSCBMP4/GFP group demonstrated a reduction in cell survival and direct osteogenic differentiation in vitro. These effects were mediated in part by the downregulation of Igf1 and Igf2. In addition, the Cox-2KO MDSCBMP4/GFP cells recruited fewer macrophages than the WT MDSC/BMP4/GFP cells in the early phase after injury. We concluded that the bone regeneration capacity of Cox-2KO MDSCs was impaired because of a reduction in cell proliferation and survival capacities, reduction in osteogenic differentiation and a decrease in the ability of the cells to recruit host cells to the injury site.

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