Osteoprotegerin (OPG), the soluble decoy receptor of RANKL is released by bone marrow osteoblasts and plays an important role in physiological osteoblastogenesis and pathological bone disease. In earlier studies, we have shown that generated stromal cell lines from the aorta-gonad-mesonephros (AGM)-region serving as good supporters of murine and human hematopoietic progenitor cell (HPC) expansion highly express OPG detected by microarray analysis. Here, we investigated the role of OPG to HPC expansion in vitro. Addition of OPG leads to an enhanced expansion of HPC in liquid culture. In addition, progenitor cell function, measured by colony and cobblestone formation, was increased. The observed effects were partially antagonized by addition of RANKL.
In conclusion, these findings suggest an important role of OPG maintaining progenitor cell function in the osteoblastic niche.