Nuclear Receptors in Skeletal Homeostasis

H. Zuo, Y. Wan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Nuclear receptors are a family of transcription factors that can be activated by lipophilic ligands. They are fundamental regulators of development, reproduction, and energy metabolism. In bone, nuclear receptors enable bone cells, including osteoblasts, osteoclasts, and osteocytes, to sense their dynamic microenvironment and maintain normal bone development and remodeling. Our views of the molecular mechanisms in this process have advanced greatly in the past decade. Drugs targeting nuclear receptors are widely used in the clinic for treating patients with bone disorders such as osteoporosis by modulating bone formation and resorption rates. Deficiency in the natural ligands of certain nuclear receptors can cause bone loss; for example, estrogen loss in postmenopausal women leads to osteoporosis and increases bone fracture risk. In contrast, excessive ligands of other nuclear receptors, such as glucocorticoids, can also be detrimental to bone health. Nonetheless, the ligand-induced osteoprotective effects of many other nuclear receptors, e.g., vitamin D receptor, are still in debate and require further characterizations. This review summarizes previous studies on the roles of nuclear receptors in bone homeostasis and incorporates the most recent findings. The advancement of our understanding in this field will help researchers improve the applications of agonists, antagonists, and selective modulators of nuclear receptors for therapeutic purposes; in particular, determining optimal pharmacological drug doses, preventing side effects, and designing new drugs that are more potent and specific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Bone formation
  • Bone resorption
  • Estrogen receptor
  • Nuclear receptor
  • Osteoblast
  • Osteoclast
  • Osteocyte
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors
  • Vitamin D receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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