Recent studies suggest a critical role of osteocytes in controlling skeletal development and bone remodeling although the molecular mechanism is largely unknown. This study investigated BMP signaling in osteocytes by disrupting Bmpr1a under the Dmp1-promoter. The conditional knockout (cKO) mice displayed a striking osteosclerotic phenotype with increased trabecular bone volume, thickness, number, and mineral density as assessed by X-ray and micro-CT. The bone histomorphometry, H&E, and TRAP staining revealed a dramatic increase in trabecular and cortical bone masses but a sharp reduction in osteoclast number. Moreover, there was an increase in BrdU positive osteocytes (2–5-fold) and osteoid volume (~ 4-fold) but a decrease in the bone formation rate (~ 85%) in the cKO bones, indicating a defective mineralization. The SEM analysis revealed poorly formed osteocytes: a sharp increase in cell numbers, a great reduction in cell dendrites, and a remarkable change in the cell distribution pattern. Molecular studies demonstrated a significant decrease in the Sost mRNA levels in bone (> 95%), and the SOST protein levels in serum (~ 85%) and bone matrices. There was a significant increase in the β-catenin (> 3-fold) mRNA levels as well as its target genes Tcf1 (> 6-fold) and Tcf3 (~ 2-fold) in the cKO bones. We also showed a significant decrease in the RANKL levels of serum proteins (~ 65%) and bone mRNA (~ 57%), and a significant increase in the Opg mRNA levels (> 20-fold) together with a significant reduction in the Rankl/Opg ratio (> 95%), which are responsible for a sharp reduction in the cKO osteoclasts. The values of mechanical strength were higher in cKO femora (i.e. max force, displacement, and work failure). These results suggest that loss of BMP signaling specifically in osteocytes dramatically increases bone mass presumably through simultaneous inhibition of RANKL and SOST, leading to osteoclast inhibition and Wnt activation together. Finally, a working hypothesis is proposed to explain how BMPR1A controls bone remodeling by inhibiting cell proliferation and stimulating differentiation. It is reported that RANKL and SOST are abundantly expressed by osteocytes. Thus, BMP signaling through BMPR1A plays important roles in osteocytes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism