Coffin-Lowry Syndrome (CLS) is an X-linked mental retardation condition associated with skeletal abnormalities. The gene mutated in CLS, RSK2, encodes a growth factor-regulated kinase. However, the cellular and molecular bases of the skeletal abnormalities associated with CLS remain unknown. Here, we show that RSK2 is required for osteoblast differentiation and function. We identify the transcription factor ATF4 as a critical substrate of RSK2 that is required for the timely onset of osteoblast differentiation, for terminal differentiation of osteoblasts, and for osteoblast-specific gene expression. Additionally, RSK2 and ATF4 posttranscriptionally regulate the synthesis of Type I collagen, the main constituent of the bone matrix. Accordingly, Atf4-deficiency results in delayed bone formation during embryonic development and low bone mass throughout postnatal life. These findings identify ATF4 as a critical regulator of osteoblast differentiation and function, and indicate that lack of ATF4 phosphorylation by RSK2 may contribute to the skeletal phenotype of CLS.
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