Secreted phosphoprotein 1

Rendering based on PDB 3CXD.
Symbols SPP1; BNSP; BSPI; ETA-1; MGC110940; OPN
External IDs OMIM166490 MGI98389 HomoloGene20156 GeneCards: SPP1 Gene
RNA expression pattern
PBB GE SPP1 209875 s at tn.png
More reference expression data
Species Human Mouse
Entrez 6696 20750
Ensembl ENSG00000118785 ENSMUSG00000029304
UniProt P10451 Q3TND2
RefSeq (mRNA) NM_000582.2 NM_009263
RefSeq (protein) NP_000573.1 NP_033289
Location (UCSC) Chr 4:
88.9 – 88.9 Mb
Chr 5:
104.86 – 104.87 Mb
PubMed search [1] [2]

Osteopontin (OPN), also known as bone sialoprotein I (BSP-1 or BNSP), early T-lymphocyte activation (ETA-1), secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1), 2ar and Rickettsia resistance (Ric), is a human gene product,[1] which is also conserved in other species. Osteopontin is a SIBLING glycoprotein that was first identified in 1986 in osteoblasts.

The prefix of the word "osteo" indicates that the protein is expressed in bone, although it is also expressed in other tissues. The suffix "-pontin" is derived from "pons," the Latin word for bridge, and signifies osteopontin's role as a linking protein. Osteopontin is an extracellular structural protein and therefore an organic component of bone. Synonyms for this protein include sialoprotein I and 44K BPP (bone phosphoprotein).

The gene has 7 exons, spans 5 kilobases in length and in humans it is located on the long arm of chromosome 4 region 13 (4q13). The protein is composed of ~300 amino acids residues and has ~30 carbohydrate residues attached including 10 sialic acid residues, which are attached to the protein during post-translational modification in the Golgi apparatus. The protein is rich in acidic residues: 30-36% are either aspartic or glutamic acid.



General structure

OPN is a highly negatively charged, extracellular matrix protein that lacks an extensive secondary structure.[2] It is composed of about 300 amino acids (297 in mouse; 314 in human) and is expressed as a 33-kDa nascent protein; there are also functionally important cleavage sites. OPN can go through posttranslational modifications which increase its apparent molecular weight to about 44 kDa.[3] The OPN gene is composed of 7 exons, 6 of which contain coding sequence.[4][5] The first two exons contain the 5' untranslated region (5' UTR).[6] Exons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 code for 17, 13, 27, 14, 108 and 134 amino acids, respectively.[6] All intron-exon boundaries are of the phase 0 type, thus alternative exon splicing maintains the reading frame of the OPN gene.

Figure 1. Proteolytic cleavage sites for full length osteopontin (OPN-FL). Thrombin exposes the cleaved epitope SVVYGLR (OPN-R), and then CPB removes the c-terminal arginine from OPN-R. The cleaved epitope has a non-RGD domain, which binds to integrin receptors (α4β1, α9β1, and α9β4). Next to the cleaved epitope, there is a RGD domain which interacts with other integrin receptors (αvβ1,3,5, and α5β1).


Full length OPN (OPN-FL) can be modified by thrombin cleavage, which exposes a cryptic sequence, SVVYGLR on the cleaved form of the protein known as OPN-R (Fig. 1). This thrombin-cleaved OPN (OPN-R) exposes an epitope for integrin receptors of α4β1, α9β1, and α9β4.[7][8] These integrin receptors are present on a number of immune cells such as mast cells,[9] neutrophils,[10] and T cells. It is also expressed by monocytes and macrophages.[11] Upon binding these receptors, cells use several signal transduction pathways to elicit immune responses in these cells (See Section 3 for more detail). OPN-R can be further cleaved by Carboxypeptidase B (CPB) by removal of C-terminal arginine and become OPN-L (Fig. 2). The function of OPN-L is largely unknown.

It appears an intracellular variant of OPN (iOPN) is involved in a number of cellular processes including migration, fusion and motility.[12][13][14][15] Intracellular OPN is generated using an alternative translation start site on the same mRNA species used to generate the extracellular isoform.[16] This alternative translation start site is downstream of the N-terminal endoplasmic reticulum-targeting signal sequence, thus allowing cytoplasmic translation of OPN.

Various human cancers, including breast cancer, have been observed to express splice variants of OPN.[17][18] The cancer specific splice variants are osteopontin-a, osteopontin-b and osteopontin-c. Exon 5 is lacking from osteopontin-b, whereas osteopontin-c lacks exon 4.[17] Osteopontin-c has been suggested to facilitate the anchorage-independent phenotype of some human breast cancer cells due to its inability to associate with the extracellular matrix.[17]


Osteopontin is biosynthesized by a variety of tissue types including fibroblasts[19] preosteoblasts, osteoblasts, osteocytes, odontoblasts, some bone marrow cells, hypertrophic chondrocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages,[20] smooth muscle,[21] skeletal muscle myoblasts,[22] endothelial cells, and extraosseous (non-bone) cells in the inner ear, brain, kidney, deciduum, and placenta. Synthesis of osteopontin is stimulated by calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D3).


Regulation of the osteopontin gene is incompletely understood. Different cell types may differ in their regulatory mechanisms of the OPN gene. OPN expression in bone predominantly occurs by osteoblasts and osteocyctes (bone-forming cells) as well as osteoclasts (bone-resorbing cells).[23] Runx2 (aka Cbfa1) and osterix (Osx) transcription factors are required for the expression of OPN [24] Runx2 and Osx bind promoters of osteoblast-specific genes such as Col1α1, Bsp, and Opn and upregulate transcription.[25]

Hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia (instances that stimulate kidney proximal tubule cells to produce calcitriol (1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3)) lead to increases in OPN transcription, translation and secretion.[26] This is due to the presence of a high-specificity vitamin D response element (VDRE) in the OPN gene promoter.[27][28][29]

Extracellular inorganic phosphate (ePi) has also been identified as a modulator of OPN expression.[30]

Stimulation of OPN expression also occurs upon exposure of cells to pro-inflammatory cytokines,[31] classical mediators of acute inflammation (e.g. tumour necrosis factor α [TNFα], infterleukin-1β [IL-1β]), angiotensin II, transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) and parathyroid hormone (PTH),[32][33] although a detailed mechanistic understanding of these regulatory pathways are not yet known. Hyperglycemia and hypoxia are also known to increase OPN expression.[32][34][35]

Biological function

Role in bone remodeling

Osteopontin has been implicated as an important factor in bone remodeling.[36] Specifically, research suggests it plays a role in anchoring osteoclasts to the mineral matrix of bones.[9] The organic part of bone is about 20% of the dry weight, and counts in, other than osteopontin, collagen type I, osteocalcin, osteonectin, bone sialo protein and alkaline phosphatase. Collagen type I counts for 90% of the protein mass. The inorganic part of bone is the mineral hydroxyapatite, Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2. Loss of this mineral may lead to osteoporosis, as the bone is depleted for calcium if this is not supplied in the diet.

OPN serves to initiate the process by which osteoclasts develop their ruffled borders to begin bone resorption. It is also found in urine, where it inhibits kidney stone formation.

Role in immune functions

As discussed, OPN binds to several integrin receptors including α4β1, α9β1, and α9β4 expressed by leukocytes. These receptors have been well-established to function in cell adhesion, migration, and survival in these cells. Therefore, recent research efforts have focused on the role of OPN in mediating such responses.

Osteopontin (OPN) is expressed in a range of immune cells, including macrophages, neutrophils, dendritic cells, and T and B cells, with varying kinetics. OPN is reported to act as an immune modulator in a variety of manners.[2] Firstly, it has chemotactic properties, which promote cell recruitment to inflammatory sites. It also functions as an adhesion protein, involved in cell attachment and wound healing. In addition, OPN mediates cell activation and cytokine production, as well as promoting cell survival by regulating apoptosis.[2] The following examples are found.[2]


OPN plays an important role in neutrophil recruitment in alcoholic liver disease.[10][37] OPN is important for the migration of neutrophil in vitro.[38] In addition, OPN recruits inflammatory cells to arthritis joints in the collagen-induced arthritis model of rheumatoid arthritis.[39][40] A recent in vitro study in 2008 has found that OPN plays a role in mast cell migration.[41] Here OPN knock-out mast cells were cultured and they observed a decreased level of chemotaxis in these cells compared to wildtype mast cells. OPN was also found to act as a macrophage chemotactic factor.[42] In this study, researchers looked at the accumulation of macrophages in the brain of rhesus monkeys and found that OPN prevented macrophages from leaving the accumulation site, indicating an increased level of chemotaxis.

Cell activation

Activated T cells are promoted by IL-12 to differentiate towards the Th1 type, producing cytokines including IL-12 and IFNγ. OPN inhibits production of the Th2 cytokine IL-10, which leads to enhanced Th1 response. OPN influences cell-mediated immunity and has Th1 cytokine functions. It enhances B cell immunoglobulin production and proliferation.[2] Recent studies in 2008 suggest that OPN also induces mast cell degranulation.[41] The researchers here observed that IgE-mediated anaphylaxis was significantly reduced in OPN knock-out mice compared to wild type mice. The role of OPN in activation of macrophages has also been implicated in a cancer study, when researchers discovered that OPN-producing tumors were able to induce macrophage activation compared to OPN-deficient tumors.[43]

Fig 2. Known immunologic functions of OPN. OPN binds to several integrin receptors including α4β1, α9β1, and α9β4 expressed by leukocytes and are known to induce cell adhesion, migration, and survival in immune cells including neutrophils, macrophages, T cells, mast cells, and osteoclasts.


OPN is an important anti-apoptotic factor in many circumstances. OPN blocks the activation-induced cell death of macrophages and T cells as well as fibroblasts and endothelial cells exposed to harmful stimuli.[44][45] OPN prevents non-programmed cell death in inflammatory colitis.[46]

Potential clinical application

The fact that OPN interacts with multiple cell surface receptors which are ubiquitously expressed makes it an active player in many physiological and pathological processes including wound healing, bone turnover, tumorigenesis, inflammation, ischemia and immune responses1. Therefore, manipulation of plasma OPN levels may be useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, cancer metastasis, osteoporosis and some forms of stress.[2]

Role in autoimmune diseases

OPN has been implicated in pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. For instance, researchers found that OPN-R, the thrombin-cleaved form of OPN, was elevated in the rheumatoid arthritis joint16. However, the role of OPN in rheumatoid arthritis is still unclear. One group found that OPN knock-out mice were protected against arthritis.[47] while others were not able to reproduce this observation.[48] OPN has been found to play a role in other autoimmune diseases including autoimmune hepatitis, allergic airway disease, and multiple sclerosis.[49]

Role in cancers and inflammatory diseases

It has been shown that OPN drives IL-17 production;[50] OPN is overexpressed in a variety of cancers, including lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, papillary thyroid carcinoma, melanoma and pleural mesothelioma; OPN contributes both glomerulonephritis and tubulointerstitial nephritis; and OPN is found in atheromatous plaques within arteries. Thus, manipulation of plasma OPN levels may be useful in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, cancer metastasis, osteoporosis and some forms of stress.[2]

Research has implicated osteopontin in excessive scar-forming and a gel has been developed to inhibit its effect.[51]

Role in allergy and asthma

Osteopontin has recently been associated with allergic inflammation and asthma. Using a murine model of allergic inflammation, it was demonstrated that OPN-s, the secreted form of OPN, exerts opposing effects on mouse Th2 effector responses and subsequent allergic airway disease: pro-inflammatory at primary systemic sensitization, and anti-inflammatory during secondary pulmonary antigenic challenge, mainly through the regulation of different dendritic cell subsets.[52] OPN deficiency was also reported to protect against remodeling and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR), again using a chronic allergen-challenge model of airway remodeling.[53] Furthermore, it was recently demonstrated that OPN expression is upregulated in human asthma, is associated with remodeling changes and its subepithelial expression correlates to disease severity.[54]

Role in muscle disease and injury

Evidence is accumulating that suggests that osteopontin plays a number of roles in diseases of skeletal muscle, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Osteopontin has been described as a component of the inflammatory environment of dystrophic and injured muscles [55][56] [57] [22], and has also been shown to increase scarring of diaphragm muscles of aged dystrophic mice [58]. A recent study has identified osteopontin as a determinant of disease severity in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy[59]. This study found that a mutation in the osteopontin gene promoter, known to cause low levels of osteopontin expression, is associated with a decrease in age to loss of ambulation and muscle strength in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.


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Additional images

Further reading

  • Fujisawa R (2002). "[Recent advances in research on bone matrix proteins]". Nippon Rinsho. 60 Suppl 3: 72–8. PMID 11979972. 
  • Denhardt DT, Mistretta D, Chambers AF, et al. (2003). "Transcriptional regulation of osteopontin and the metastatic phenotype: evidence for a Ras-activated enhancer in the human OPN promoter". Clin. Exp. Metastasis 20 (1): 77–84. doi:10.1023/A:1022550721404. PMID 12650610. 
  • Yeatman TJ, Chambers AF (2003). "Osteopontin and colon cancer progression". Clin. Exp. Metastasis 20 (1): 85–90. doi:10.1023/A:1022502805474. PMID 12650611. 
  • O'Regan A (2004). "The role of osteopontin in lung disease". Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 14 (6): 479–88. doi:10.1016/S1359-6101(03)00055-8. PMID 14563350. 
  • Wai PY, Kuo PC (2004). "The role of Osteopontin in tumor metastasis". J. Surg. Res. 121 (2): 228–41. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2004.03.028. PMID 15501463. 
  • Konno S, Hizawa N, Nishimura M, Huang SK (2007). "Osteopontin: a potential biomarker for successful bee venom immunotherapy and a potential molecule for inhibiting IgE-mediated allergic responses". Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology 55 (4): 355–9. doi:10.2332/allergolint.55.355. PMID 17130676. 
  • Rodrigues LR, Teixeira JA, Schmitt FL, et al. (2007). "The role of osteopontin in tumor progression and metastasis in breast cancer". Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 16 (6): 1087–97. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-06-1008. PMID 17548669. 
  • Ramaiah SK, Rittling S (2007). "Role of osteopontin in regulating hepatic inflammatory responses and toxic liver injury". Expert opinion on drug metabolism & toxicology 3 (4): 519–26. doi:10.1517/17425225.3.4.519. PMID 17696803. 

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