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Free access

Joyce Emons, Andrei S Chagin, Torun Malmlöf, Magnus Lekman, Åsa Tivesten, Claes Ohlsson, Jan M Wit, Marcel Karperien, and Lars Sävendahl

Longitudinal bone growth is regulated in the growth plate. At the end of puberty, growth velocity diminishes and eventually ceases with the fusion of the growth plate through mechanisms that are not yet completely understood. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has an important role in angiogenesis, but also in chondrocyte differentiation, chondrocyte survival, and the final stages of endochondral ossification. Estrogens have been shown to up-regulate VEGF expression in the uterus and bone of rats. In this study, we investigated the relation between estrogens and VEGF production in growth plate chondrocytes both in vivo and in vitro. The expression of VEGF protein was down-regulated upon ovariectomy and was restored upon estradiol (E2) supplementation in rat growth plates. In cultured rat chondrocyte cell line RCJ3.1C5.18, E2 dose dependently stimulated 121 and 189 kDa isoforms of VEGF, but not the 164 kDa isoform. Finally, VEGF expression was observed at both protein and mRNA levels in human growth plate specimens. The protein level increased during pubertal development, supporting a link between estrogens and local VEGF production in the growth plate. We conclude that estrogens regulate VEGF expression in the epiphyseal growth plate, although the precise role of VEGF in estrogen-mediated growth plate fusion remains to be clarified.

Free access

J Cornish, KE Callon, U Bava, DH Coy, TB Mulvey, MA Murray, GJ Cooper, and IR Reid

Adrenomedullin is a 52-amino acid peptide first described in a human phaeochromocytoma but since been found to be present in many tissues, including the vascular system and bone. Because of its structural similarity to amylin and calcitonin gene-related peptide, both of which have actions on bone cells, we have previously assessed the effects of adrenomedullin on the skeleton, and found that it increases osteoblast proliferation in vitro and bone formation following local injection in vivo. The present study carries this work forward by assessing the effects on bone of the systemic administration of a fragment of this peptide lacking the structural requirements for vasodilator activity. Two groups of 20 adult male mice received 20 injections of human adrenomedullin(27-52) 8.1 microg or vehicle over a 4-week period and bone histomorphometry and strength were assessed. In the tibia, adrenomedullin(27-52) produced increases in the indices of osteoblast activity, osteoid perimeter and osteoblast perimeter (P<0.05 for both using Student's t-test). Osteoclast perimeter was not affected. There was a 21% increase in cortical width and a 45% increase in trabecular bone volume in animals treated with adrenomedullin(27-52) (P<0.002 for both). Assessment of bone strength by three-point bending of the humerus showed both the maximal force and the displacement to the point of failure were increased in the animals treated with adrenomedullin(27-52) (P<0.03 for both). There was also a significant increase in the thickness of the epiphyseal growth plate. No adverse effects of the treatment were noted. It is concluded that adrenomedullin(27-52) acts as an anabolic agent on bone. These findings may be relevant to the normal regulation of bone mass and to the design of agents for the treatment of osteoporosis.

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Rhonda D Prisby

Bone tissue is highly vascularized due to the various roles bone blood vessels play in bone and bone marrow function. For example, the vascular system is critical for bone development, maintenance and repair and provides O2, nutrients, waste elimination, systemic hormones and precursor cells for bone remodeling. Further, bone blood vessels serve as egress and ingress routes for blood and immune cells to and from the bone marrow. It is becoming increasingly clear that the vascular and skeletal systems are intimately linked in metabolic regulation and physiological and pathological processes. This review examines how agents such as mechanical loading, parathyroid hormone, estrogen, vitamin D and calcitonin, all considered anabolic for bone, have tremendous impacts on the bone vasculature. In fact, these agents influence bone blood vessels prior to influencing bone. Further, data reveal strong associations between vasodilator capacity of bone blood vessels and trabecular bone volume, and poor associations between estrogen status and uterine mass and trabecular bone volume. Additionally, this review highlights the importance of the bone microcirculation, particularly the vascular endothelium and NO-mediated signaling, in the regulation of bone blood flow, bone interstitial fluid flow and pressure and the paracrine signaling of bone cells. Finally, the vascular endothelium as a mediator of bone health and disease is considered.

Free access

Bronwen A J Evans, Melanie J Bull, Rebecca C Kench, Rebecca E Fox, Liam D Morgan, Amy E Stevenson, Evelien F Gevers, Mark J Perry, and Timothy Wells

The relationship between the degree of GH deficiency and impaired bone integrity is not simple and may be influenced by related endocrine variables. To test the hypothesis that elevated adiposity and hyperleptinaemia are contributory factors, we quantified femoral trabecular organisation in two models of GH deficiency with divergent degrees of adiposity – the moderately GH-deficient/hyperleptinaemic transgenic growth retarded (Tgr) rat and the profoundly GH-deficient/hypoleptinaemic dw/dw rat. Trabecular density (bone volume/total volume) and surface were reduced by 16% in dw/dw males, with a more fragmented trabecular lattice. This impairment was more pronounced in Tgr rats, with trabecular number and density further reduced (by an additional 21%) and relative surface (bone surface/bone volume), trabecular convexity (structural modal index) and fragmentation (pattern factor) increased. To establish whether the presence of obesity/hyperleptinaemia exacerbates bone impairment in GH deficiency, trabecular structure was assessed in dw/dw rats following diet-induced obesity (DIO). DIO had minimal effect on trabecular architecture, the increased concavity of trabecular surfaces being the only observable effect. Similarly, infusion of leptin into the tibial bone marrow cavity had no effect on trabecular organisation or tibial growth in wild-type rats. However, while this procedure also failed to affect trabecular architecture or osteoclast number in dw/dw rats, distal osteoblast surface was increased by 23%, marrow adipocyte number and epiphyseal plate width being reduced (by 40 and 5% respectively), without increasing caspase-3 immunoreactivity. These findings suggest that while leptin may directly inhibit adipocyte differentiation and favour osteoblast production, hyperleptinaemia makes only a minimal contribution to the impairment of bone structure in GH deficiency.

Free access

Thomas M Braxton, Dionne E A Sarpong, Janine L Dovey, Anne Guillou, Bronwen A J Evans, Juan M Castellano, Bethany E Keenan, Saja Baraghithy, Sam L Evans, Manuel Tena-Sempere, Patrice Mollard, Joseph Tam, and Timothy Wells

Human Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS) is characterised by impairments of multiple systems including the growth hormone (GH) axis and skeletal growth. To address our lack of knowledge of the influence of PWS on skeletal integrity in mice, we have characterised the endocrine and skeletal phenotype of the PWS-ICdel mouse model for ‘full’ PWS and determined the impact of thermoneutrality. Tibial length, epiphyseal plate width and marrow adiposity were reduced by 6, 18 and 79% in male PWS-ICdel mice, with osteoclast density being unaffected. Similar reductions in femoral length accompanied a 32% reduction in mid-diaphyseal cortical diameter. Distal femoral Tb.N was reduced by 62%, with individual trabeculae being less plate-like and the lattice being more fragmented (Tb.Pf increased by 63%). Cortical strength (ultimate moment) was reduced by 26% as a result of reductions in calcified tissue strength and the geometric contribution. GH and prolactin contents in PWS-ICdel pituitaries were reduced in proportion to their smaller pituitary size, with circulating IGF-1 concentration reduced by 37–47%. Conversely, while pituitary luteinising hormone content was halved, circulating gonadotropin concentrations were unaffected. Although longitudinal growth, marrow adiposity and femoral geometry were unaffected by thermoneutrality, strengthened calcified tissue reversed the weakened cortex of PWS-ICdel femora. While underactivity of the GH axis may be due to loss of Snord116 expression and impaired limb bone geometry and strength due to loss of Magel2 expression, comprehensive analysis of skeletal integrity in the single gene deletion models is required. Our data imply that thermoneutrality may ameliorate the elevated fracture risk associated with PWS.

Free access

Ghania Ramdani, Nadine Schall, Hema Kalyanaraman, Nisreen Wahwah, Sahar Moheize, Jenna J Lee, Robert L Sah, Alexander Pfeifer, Darren E Casteel, and Renate B Pilz

NO/cGMP signaling is important for bone remodeling in response to mechanical and hormonal stimuli, but the downstream mediator(s) regulating skeletal homeostasis are incompletely defined. We generated transgenic mice expressing a partly-activated, mutant cGMP-dependent protein kinase type 2 (PKG2R242Q) under control of the osteoblast-specific Col1a1 promoter to characterize the role of PKG2 in post-natal bone formation. Primary osteoblasts from these mice showed a two- to three-fold increase in basal and total PKG2 activity; they proliferated faster and were resistant to apoptosis compared to cells from WT mice. Male Col1a1-Prkg2 R242Q transgenic mice had increased osteoblast numbers, bone formation rates and Wnt/β-catenin-related gene expression in bone and a higher trabecular bone mass compared to their WT littermates. Streptozotocin-induced type 1 diabetes suppressed bone formation and caused rapid bone loss in WT mice, but male transgenic mice were protected from these effects. Surprisingly, we found no significant difference in bone micro-architecture or Wnt/β-catenin-related gene expression between female WT and transgenic mice; female mice of both genotypes showed higher systemic and osteoblastic NO/cGMP generation compared to their male counterparts, and a higher level of endogenous PKG2 activity may be responsible for masking effects of the PKG2R242Q transgene in females. Our data support sexual dimorphism in Wnt/β-catenin signaling and PKG2 regulation of this crucial pathway in bone homeostasis. This work establishes PKG2 as a key regulator of osteoblast proliferation and post-natal bone formation.

Free access

Christianne M A Reijnders, Nathalie Bravenboer, Annechien M Tromp, Marinus A Blankenstein, and Paul Lips

Mechanical loading plays an essential role in maintaining skeletal integrity. Mechanical stimulation leads to increased bone formation. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are involved in the translation of mechanical stimuli into bone formation, are not completely understood. Growth factors and osteocytes, which act as mechanosensors, play a key role during the bone formation after mechanical stimulation. The aim of this study was to characterize the role of IGF-I in the translation of mechanical stimuli into bone formation locally in rat tibiae. Fifteen female Wistar rats were randomly assigned to three groups (n = 5): load, sham-loaded, and control. The four-point bending model of Forwood and Turner was used to induce a single period of mechanical loading on the tibia shaft. The effects of mechanical loading on IGF-I mRNA expression were determined with non-radioactive in situ hybridization on decalcified tibiae sections, 6 h after the loading session. Endogenous IGF-I mRNA was expressed in trabecular and cortical osteoblasts, some trabecular and sub-endocortical osteocytes, intracortical endothelial cells of blood vessels, and periosteum. Megakaryocytes, macrophages, and myeloid cells also expressed IGF-I mRNA. In the growth plate, IGF-I mRNA was located in proliferative and hypertrophic chondrocytes. Mechanical loading did not affect the IGF-I mRNA expression in osteoblasts, bone marrow cells, and chondrocytes, but the osteocytes at the endosteal side of the shaft showed a twofold increase of IGF-I mRNA expression. The proportion of IGF-I mRNA positive osteocytes in loaded tibiae was 29.3 ± 12.9% (mean ± s.d.; n = 5), whereas sham-loaded and contra-lateral control tibiae exhibited 16.7 ± 4.4% (n = 5) and 14.7 ± 4.2% (n = 10) respectively (P < 0.05). Lamellar bone formation after a single mechanical loading session was observed at the endosteal side of the shaft. In conclusion, a single loading session results in a twofold up-regulation of IGF-I mRNA synthesis in osteocytes which are present in multiple layers extending into the cortical bone of mechanically stimulated tibia shaft 6 h after loading. This supports the hypothesis that IGF-I, which is located in osteocytes, is involved in the translation of mechanical stimuli into bone formation.

Restricted access

N Loveridge, C Farquharson, R Palmer, G E Lobley, and D J Flint


The control of longitudinal growth is poorly understood but GH is considered to be one of the major hormones regulating postnatal growth. However, there is dispute as to whether it has a direct or indirect action. To study the role of GH we used a polyclonal antiserum to rat GH and investigated changes in cell proliferation and enzyme activities associated with bone formation and resorption during longitudinal growth. IGF-I levels were measured by two independent RIAs, DNA synthesis by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation followed by immunocytochemistry and enzyme activities were quantified in situ by microdensitometry.

After 1 day the percentage of chondrocytes undergoing DNA synthesis within the proliferative zone was reduced but no other parameters were affected. By day 4 the labelling index was the same as in pair-fed animals but the number of chondrocytes synthesising DNA was reduced as was the total width of the growth plate and that of the proliferative zone. Alkaline phosphatase (associated with mineralisation) was unchanged but glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase activity (associated with cell proliferation) was decreased. Osteoclastic tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity (associated with bone resorption) was also significantly reduced. Similar changes were apparent after 10 days. At no time was the circulating level of IGF-I decreased.

These data suggest that, during longitudinal growth, GH affects the number of proliferating chondrocytes but not the percentage of cells undergoing DNA synthesis, indicating that its primary role may be on the commitment of prechondrocytes to a proliferative state. Furthermore, while GH does not seem to have any effect on skeletal mineralisation it may stimulate osteoclastic resorption of the primary spongiosa.

Journal of Endocrinology (1995) 146, 55–62

Free access

Ola Nilsson, Robert D Mitchum Jr, Lenneke Schrier, Sandra P Ferns, Kevin M Barnes, James F Troendle, and Jeffrey Baron

The overall body size of vertebrates is primarily determined by longitudinal bone growth at the growth plate. With age, the growth plate undergoes programmed senescence, causing longitudinal bone growth to slow and eventually cease. Indirect evidence suggests that growth plate senescence occurs because stem-like cells in the growth plate resting zone have a finite proliferative capacity that is gradually exhausted. Similar limits on replication have been observed when many types of animal cells are placed in cell culture, an effect known as the Hayflick phenomenon. However, we found that the number of population doublings of rabbit resting zone chondrocytes in culture did not depend on the age of the animal from which the cells were harvested, suggesting that the mechanisms limiting replicative capacity of growth plate chondrocytes in vivo are distinct from those in vitro. We also observed that the level of DNA methylation in resting zone chondrocytes decreased with age in vivo. This loss of methylation appeared to occur specifically with the slow proliferation of resting zone chondrocytes in vivo and was not observed with the rapid proliferation of proliferative zone chondrocytes in vivo (i.e. the level of DNA methylation did not change from the resting zone to the hypertrophic zone), with proliferation of chondrocytes in vitro, or with growth of the liver in vivo. Thus, the overall level of DNA methylation decreases during growth plate senescence. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that the mechanism limiting replication of growth plate chondrocytes in vivo involves loss of DNA methylation and, thus, loss of DNA methylation might be a fundamental biological mechanism that limits longitudinal bone growth in mammals, thereby determining the overall adult size of the organism.

Free access

J Wang, J Zhou, CM Cheng, JJ Kopchick, and CA Bondy

The possibility that growth hormone (GH) has effects on long bone growth independent of insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) has long been debated. If this is true, then long bone growth should be more profoundly affected by the absence of GH (since both GH and GH-stimulated IGF-I effects are absent) than by the absence of IGF-I alone (since GH is still present and actually elevated). To test this hypothesis, we compared long bone growth in mice with targeted deletions of Igf1 vs growth hormone receptor (Ghr). Tibial linear growth rate was reduced by approximately 35% in Igf1 null mice and by about 65% in Ghr null mice between postnatal days 20 and 40, a time of peak GH effect during normal longitudinal growth. The Igf1 null mouse growth plate demonstrated significant enlargement of the germinal zone; chondrocyte proliferation and numbers were normal but chondrocyte hypertrophy was significantly reduced. In contrast, the Ghr null mouse germinal zone was hypoplastic, chondrocyte proliferation and numbers were significantly reduced, and chondrocyte hypertrophy was also reduced. We have previously demonstrated that IGF-II is highly expressed in growth plate germinal and proliferative zones, so we considered the possibility that GH-stimulated IGF-II production might promote germinal zone expansion and maintain normal proliferation in the Igf1 null mouse growth plate. Supporting this view, IGF-II mRNA was increased in the Igf1 null mouse and decreased in the Ghr null mouse growth plate.Thus, in the complete absence of IGF-I but in the presence of elevated GH in the Igf1 null mouse, reduction in chondrocyte hypertrophy appears to be the major defect in longitudinal bone growth. In the complete absence of a GH effect in the Ghr null mouse, however, both chondrocyte generation and hypertrophy are compromised, leading to a compound deficit in long bone growth. These observations support dual roles for GH in promoting longitudinal bone growth: an IGF-I-independent role in growth plate chondrocyte generation and an IGF-I-dependent role in promoting chondrocyte hypertrophy. The question of whether GH has direct effects on chondrocyte generation is still not settled, however, since it now appears that IGF-II may medicate some of these effects on the growth plate.