FLRG, a new ADAM12-associated protein, modulates osteoclast differentiation.
FLRG (follistatin-related gene) is a secreted glycoprotein that is highly homologous with follistatin. These proteins are involved in the regulation of various biological effects mediated by their binding to TGF-beta (transforming growth factor-beta) superfamily members, activin A and bone morphogenetic proteins. To characterize further the function of FLRG, we used a yeast two-hybrid screen to look for other possible functional partners.We report a direct interaction between the cysteine-rich domain of FLRG and ADAM12 (a disintegrin and metalloprotease 12). ADAMs are metalloprotease-disintegrin proteins that have been implicated in cell adhesion, protein ectodomain shedding, matrix protein degradation and cell fusion. Several studies have reported that ADAM12 protein, as well as activin A, are important regulators of osteoclast differentiation. We observed that the expressions of ADAM12 and activin A are modulated during osteoclast formation, whereas the FLRG expression seemed to remain quite constant. We showed that the FLRG protein inhibits osteoclast differentiation from murine primary spleen cells and macrophage RAW264.7 cells cultured in the presence of RANK-L (receptor activator of nuclear factor kappaB ligand) and M-CSF (macrophage colony-stimulating factor). Addition of FLRG protein to precursors significantly reduces the number of osteoclasts, as well as the average number of nuclei in each osteoclast.Our study indicates that the FLRG protein may contribute to bone formation by inhibiting osteoclast differentiation.