Bone mass declines with age and its maintenance is tightly linked to osteoblasts (crucial bone-building cells). Although disruption of the peripheral circadian clock is involved in various pathologies including aging-related diseases, evidence regarding how the peripheral clock regulates bone mass remains elusive. In the present study, we aimed to elucidate the effects of Bmal1 (the key activator of the peripheral circadian clock system) knockdown by lentivirus-mediated shRNA on osteoblast differentiation and its related mechanisms. We found that the expression of osteogenic markers, alkaline phosphatase activity, and mineralization were decreased, whereas apoptosis and inflammatory response were increased in Bmal1 knockdown osteoblasts. In addition, Bmal1 knockdown promoted ERK and JNK phosphorylation, as well as mTOR activity, whereas mTOR inhibition by rapamycin abrogated Bmal1 knockdown-mediated effects on osteoblast differentiation and mineralization capacity. Remarkably, Bmal1 knockdown in osteoblasts inhibited GSK3β/β-catenin signaling with decreased β-catenin expression and GSK-3β phosphorylation at serine 9, while GSK3β inhibition with TDZD-8, but not WNT3a or SKL2001, rescued Bmal1 knockdown-induced defects in osteoblast differentiation. Moreover, rapamycin partly nullified the suppression of Bmal1 knockdown on β-catenin expression and GSK-3β phosphorylation. Collectively, overall data indicated that circadian gene Bmal1 regulated osteoblast differentiation and inflammatory response in an mTOR/GSK3β/β-catenin-dependent manner, and thereby may contribute to the mineralization process and bone modeling/remodeling.
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