Wnt signaling and cellular metabolism in osteoblasts

Courtney M. Karner, Fanxin Long

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

225 Scopus citations


The adult human skeleton is a multifunctional organ undergoing continuous remodeling. Homeostasis of bone mass in a healthy adult requires an exquisite balance between bone resorption by osteoclasts and bone formation by osteoblasts; disturbance of such balance is the root cause for various bone disorders including osteoporosis. To develop effective and safe therapeutics to modulate bone formation, it is essential to elucidate the molecular mechanisms governing osteoblast differentiation and activity. Due to their specialized function in collagen synthesis and secretion, osteoblasts are expected to consume large amounts of nutrients. However, studies of bioenergetics and building blocks in osteoblasts have been lagging behind those of growth factors and transcription factors. Genetic studies in both humans and mice over the past 15 years have established Wnt signaling as a critical mechanism for stimulating osteoblast differentiation and activity. Importantly, recent studies have uncovered that Wnt signaling directly reprograms cellular metabolism by stimulating aerobic glycolysis, glutamine catabolism as well as fatty acid oxidation in osteoblast-lineage cells. Such findings therefore reveal an important regulatory axis between bone anabolic signals and cellular bioenergetics. A comprehensive understanding of osteoblast metabolism and its regulation is likely to reveal molecular targets for novel bone therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1649-1657
Number of pages9
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone
  • Fatty acids
  • Glucose
  • Glutamine
  • Metabolism
  • Osteoblast
  • Wnt
  • mTORC1
  • mTORC2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology


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