Background: Osteoporosis is a world-wide health problem, which leads to
decreased bone strength and increased susceptibility to fractures. Puerarin, a
phytoestrogen extracted from Pueraria lobata (Willd.) Ohwi, has been identified as a
promising intervention for preventing bone loss and promoting bone regeneration.
However, the underlying mechanisms for its anabolic action are still not clear. In the
present study, we aimed to investigate the effect of puerarin on the osteogenic
differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and the possible molecular
mechanism mediating its action.
Methods: Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and intragastric administration on
ovariectomized(OVX) rats were used to study the anti-osteoporotic function of puerarin.
The involvement of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways was
Results: Our results demonstrated that at optimal concentration, puerarin could promote
osteogenic differentiation of BMSCs in vitro. This induction was mediated by MAPK
signaling pathway. Further detailed study revealed that ERK1/2-Runx2 signaling
pathway had more prominent effect than p38 signaling pathway in puerarin-induced
differentiation of BMSCs toward the osteogenic phenotype. We also found that puerarin
protected against reduction in bone mineral density and improved femur trabecular bone
structure in ovariectomized rats.
Conclusion: Our findings revealed the functional mechanism of puerarin in promoting
osteogenic differentiation which involved ERK1/2 and p38-MAPK pathway and provided
experimental evidence for the potential application of puerarin for estrogen replacement
therapy of osteoporosis.