A transcription factor, Cbfa1, which belongs to the runt-domain gene family, is expressed restrictively in fetal development. To elucidate the function of Cbfa1, we generated mice with a mutated Cbfa1 locus. Mice with a homozygous mutation in Cbfa1 died just after birth without breathing. Examination of their skeletal systems showed a complete lack of ossification. Although immature osteoblasts, which expressed alkaline phophatase weakly but not Osteopontin and Osteocalcin, and a few immature osteoclasts appeared at the perichondrial region, neither vascular nor mesenchymal cell invasion was observed in the cartilage. Therefore, our data suggest that both intramembranous and endochondral ossification were completely blocked, owing to the maturational arrest of osteoblasts in the mutant mice, and demonstrate that Cbfa1 plays an essential role in osteogenesis.
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