Antler development and coupled osteoporosis in the skeleton of red deer Cervus elaphus: Expression dynamics for regulatory and effector genes

Viktor Stéger, Andrea Molnár, Adrienn Borsy, István Gyurján, Zoltán Szabolcsi, Gábor Dancs, János Molnár, Péter Papp, János Nagy, László Puskás, Endre Barta, Zoltán Zomborszky, Péter Horn, János Podani, Szabolcs Semsey, Péter Lakatos, László Orosz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)


Antlers of deer display the fastest and most robust bone development in the animal kingdom. Deposition of the minerals in the cartilage preceding ossification is a specific feature of the developing antler. We have cloned 28 genes which are upregulated in the cartilaginous section (called mineralized cartilage) of the developing ("velvet") antler of red deer stags, compared to their levels in the fetal cartilage. Fifteen of these genes were further characterized by their expression pattern along the tissue zones (i.e., antler mesenchyme, precartilage, cartilage, bone), and by in situ hybridization of the gene activities at the cellular level. Expression dynamics of genes col1A1, col1A2, col3A1, ibsp, mgp, sparc, runx2, and osteocalcin were monitored and compared in the ossified part of the velvet antler and in the skeleton (in ribs and vertebrae). Expression levels of these genes in the ossified part of the velvet antler exceeded the skeletal levels 10-30-fold or more. Gene expression and comparative sequence analyses of cDNAs and the cognate 5′ cis-regulatory regions in deer, cattle, and human suggested that the genes runx2 and osx have a master regulatory role. GC-MS metabolite analyses of glucose, phosphate, ethanolamine-phosphate, and hydroxyproline utilizations confirmed the high activity of mineralization genes in governing the flow of the minerals from the skeleton to the antler bone. Gene expression patterns and quantitative metabolite data for the robust bone development in the antler are discussed in an integrated manner. We also discuss the potential implication of our findings on the deer genes in human osteoporosis research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Genetics and Genomics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2010



  • Antler cycle
  • Antler microarray
  • Mineralization genes
  • Osteocalcin
  • Osx
  • Physiological osteoporosis
  • Red deer
  • Runx2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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