Osteoclasts degrade bone and osteoclast differentiation has been implicated in bone destruction in rheumatoid arthritis. The dairy bacterium Propionibacterium freudenreichii MJ2 (MJ2) isolated from raw milk inhibits osteoclast differentiation and ameliorates collagen-induced arthritis. This study aimed to investigate the inhibitory effect of the surface proteins of MJ2 on receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL)-induced osteoclast differentiation and explain the underlying mechanism. The murine macrophage cell line RAW 264.7 was used to study the inhibition of osteoclast differentiation. The surface proteins significantly inhibited RANKL-induced osteoclast differentiation in a protein concentration-dependent manner by inhibiting the expression of genes and proteins related to osteoclast differentiation. RNA microarray analysis showed that the surface proteins significantly upregulated lipocalin-2 (lcn2) expression. In addition, they downregulated c-fos and NFATc1 and inhibited the expression of NFATc1-downstream genes Atp6v0d2, Calcr, and Ctsk. siRNA silencing of lcn2 decreased the extent of surface protein inhibition on osteoclast differentiation, suggesting that lcn2 plays an important role in the inhibition of RANKL-induced osteoclast differentiation. In conclusion, surface proteins of MJ2 show inhibitory effects on RANKL-induced osteoclast differentiation by upregulating lcn2 expression, in turn downregulating NFATc1, leading to the inhibition of NFATc1-downstream osteoclastogenesis-related gene expression.
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