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Concept: Intramembranous ossification


Epidemiologic studies correlate low vitamin C intake with bone loss. The genetic deletion of enzymes involved in de novo vitamin C synthesis in mice, likewise, causes severe osteoporosis. However, very few studies have evaluated a protective role of this dietary supplement on the skeleton. Here, we show that the ingestion of vitamin C prevents the low-turnover bone loss following ovariectomy in mice. We show that this prevention in areal bone mineral density and micro-CT parameters results from the stimulation of bone formation, demonstrable in vivo by histomorphometry, bone marker measurements, and quantitative PCR. Notably, the reductions in the bone formation rate, plasma osteocalcin levels, and ex vivo osteoblast gene expression 8 weeks post-ovariectomy are all returned to levels of sham-operated controls. The study establishes vitamin C as a skeletal anabolic agent.

Concepts: DNA, Osteoporosis, Bone, Gene, Genetics, Molecular biology, Skeletal system, Intramembranous ossification


The detection of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) in osteoblasts and osteoclasts over 20 years ago suggested that direct effects of estrogens on both of these cell types are responsible for their beneficial effects on the skeleton, but the role of ERα in osteoblast lineage cells has remained elusive. In addition, estrogen activation of ERα in osteoclasts can only account for the protective effect of estrogens on the cancellous, but not the cortical, bone compartment that represents 80% of the entire skeleton. Here, we deleted ERα at different stages of differentiation in murine osteoblast lineage cells. We found that ERα in osteoblast progenitors expressing Osterix1 (Osx1) potentiates Wnt/β-catenin signaling, thereby increasing proliferation and differentiation of periosteal cells. Further, this signaling pathway was required for optimal cortical bone accrual at the periosteum in mice. Notably, this function did not require estrogens. The osteoblast progenitor ERα mediated a protective effect of estrogens against endocortical, but not cancellous, bone resorption. ERα in mature osteoblasts or osteocytes did not influence cancellous or cortical bone mass. Hence, the ERα in both osteoblast progenitors and osteoclasts functions to optimize bone mass but at distinct bone compartments and in response to different cues.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Osteoclast, Osseous tissue, Intramembranous ossification, Osteoblast


BACKGROUND: Osteoinductive bone substitutes are defined by their ability to induce new bone formation even at heterotopic implantation sites. The present study was designed to analyze the potential osteoinductivity of two different bone substitute materials in caprine muscle tissue.Materials and methods: One gram each of either a porous beta-tricalcium phosphate (beta-TCP) or an hydroxyapatite/silicon dioxide (HA/SiO2)-based nanocrystalline bone substitute material was implanted in several muscle pouches of goats. The biomaterials were explanted at 29, 91 and 181 days after implantation. Conventional histology and special histochemical stains were performed to detect osteoblast precursor cells as well as mineralized and unmineralized bone matrix. RESULTS: Both materials underwent cellular degradation in which tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive osteoclast-like cells and TRAP-negative multinucleated giant cells were involved. The Ss-TCP was completely resorbed within the observation period, whereas some granules of the HA-groups were still detectable after 180 days. Neither osteoblasts, osteoblast precursor cells nor extracellular bone matrix were found within the implantation bed of any of the analyzed biomaterials at any of the observed time points. CONCLUSIONS: This study showed that Ss-TCP underwent a faster degradation than the HA-based material. The lack of osteoinductivity for both materials might be due to their granular shape, as osteoinductivity in goat muscle has been mainly attributed to cylindrical or disc-shaped bone substitute materials. This hypothesis however requires further investigation to systematically analyze various materials with comparable characteristics in the same experimental setting.

Concepts: Extracellular matrix, Skeletal system, Alkaline phosphatase, Observation, Hypothesis, Materials science, Intramembranous ossification, Osteoblast


Physical activity is recommended for skeletal health because bones adapt to mechanical loading. The young skeleton shows greatest plasticity to physical activity-related mechanical loads, but bones are most at risk of failure later in life. The discrepancy raises the question of whether the skeletal benefits of physical activity completed when young persist with aging. Here we present a unique case wherein the cortical bone benefit of physical activity completed over five decades earlier could be established within an individual aged in their tenth decade of life. Specifically, we compared bone properties at the midshaft humerus between the throwing and nonthrowing arms of a 94-year-old former Major League Baseball player who ceased throwing 55 years earlier. By performing analyses within-subject, the long-term skeletal benefit of physical activity completed when young could be assessed independent of inherited and systemic traits. Also, as the subject threw left-handed during his throwing career, but was right-hand dominant in all other activities throughout life, any lasting skeletal benefits in favor of the throwing arm could not be attributable to simple arm dominance. Analyses indicated that any cortical bone mass, area and thickness benefits of throwing-related physical activity completed when young were lost with aging, possibly due to accelerated intracortical remodeling. In contrast, the subject’s throwing (nondominant) arm had greater total cross-sectional area and estimated strength (polar moment of inertia) than in his dominant arm, despite muscle indices favoring the latter. These data indicate that physical activity completed when young can have lasting benefits on bone size and strength, independent of the maintenance of bone mass benefits.

Concepts: Bone, Skeletal system, Ageing, Intramembranous ossification, Area, Moment of inertia, Skeleton, Major League Baseball


Fossils of juvenile Mesozoic birds provide insight into the early evolution of avian development, however such fossils are rare. The analysis of the ossification sequence in these early-branching birds has the potential to address important questions about their comparative developmental biology and to help understand their morphological evolution and ecological differentiation. Here we report on an early juvenile enantiornithine specimen from the Early Cretaceous of Europe, which sheds new light on the osteogenesis in this most species-rich clade of Mesozoic birds. Consisting of a nearly complete skeleton, it is amongst the smallest known Mesozoic avian fossils representing post-hatching stages of development. Comparisons between this new specimen and other known early juvenile enantiornithines support a clade-wide asynchronous pattern of osteogenesis in the sternum and the vertebral column, and strongly indicate that the hatchlings of these phylogenetically basal birds varied greatly in size and tempo of skeletal maturation.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Developmental biology, Skeletal system, Bird, Cretaceous, Intramembranous ossification, Enantiornithes


Background Sclerostin is an osteocyte-derived inhibitor of osteoblast activity. The monoclonal antibody romosozumab binds to sclerostin and increases bone formation. Methods In a phase 2, multicenter, international, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, eight-group study, we evaluated the efficacy and safety of romosozumab over a 12-month period in 419 postmenopausal women, 55 to 85 years of age, who had low bone mineral density (a T score of -2.0 or less at the lumbar spine, total hip, or femoral neck and -3.5 or more at each of the three sites). Participants were randomly assigned to receive subcutaneous romosozumab monthly (at a dose of 70 mg, 140 mg, or 210 mg) or every 3 months (140 mg or 210 mg), subcutaneous placebo, or an open-label active comparator - oral alendronate (70 mg weekly) or subcutaneous teriparatide (20 μg daily). The primary end point was the percentage change from baseline in bone mineral density at the lumbar spine at 12 months. Secondary end points included percentage changes in bone mineral density at other sites and in markers of bone turnover. Results All dose levels of romosozumab were associated with significant increases in bone mineral density at the lumbar spine, including an increase of 11.3% with the 210-mg monthly dose, as compared with a decrease of 0.1% with placebo and increases of 4.1% with alendronate and 7.1% with teriparatide. Romosozumab was also associated with large increases in bone mineral density at the total hip and femoral neck, as well as transitory increases in bone-formation markers and sustained decreases in a bone-resorption marker. Except for mild, generally nonrecurring injection-site reactions with romosozumab, adverse events were similar among groups. Conclusions In postmenopausal women with low bone mass, romosozumab was associated with increased bone mineral density and bone formation and with decreased bone resorption. (Funded by Amgen and UCB Pharma; number, NCT00896532 .).

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Bone, Clinical trial, Bone density, Density, Skeletal system, Lumbar vertebrae, Intramembranous ossification


Melorheostosis is a sporadic disease of uncertain etiology characterized by asymmetric bone overgrowth and functional impairment. Using whole exome sequencing, we identify somatic mosaic MAP2K1 mutations in affected, but not unaffected, bone of eight unrelated patients with melorheostosis. The activating mutations (Q56P, K57E and K57N) cluster tightly in the MEK1 negative regulatory domain. Affected bone displays a mosaic pattern of increased p-ERK1/2 in osteoblast immunohistochemistry. Osteoblasts cultured from affected bone comprise two populations with distinct p-ERK1/2 levels by flow cytometry, enhanced ERK1/2 activation, and increased cell proliferation. However, these MAP2K1 mutations inhibit BMP2-mediated osteoblast mineralization and differentiation in vitro, underlying the markedly increased osteoid detected in affected bone histology. Mosaicism is also detected in the skin overlying bone lesions in four of five patients tested. Our data show that the MAP2K1 oncogene is important in human bone formation and implicate MEK1 inhibition as a potential treatment avenue for melorheostosis.

Concepts: Bone, Medicine, Cancer, Skeletal system, Anatomical pathology, Flow cytometry, Intramembranous ossification, Osteoblast


The impaired maturation of bone-forming osteoblasts results in reduced bone formation and subsequent bone weakening, which leads to a number of conditions such as osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). Transplantation of human fetal mesenchymal stem cells has been proposed as skeletal anabolic therapy to enhance bone formation, but the mechanisms underlying the contribution of the donor cells to bone health are poorly understood and require further elucidation. Here, we show that intraperitoneal injection of human amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (AFSCs) into a mouse model of OI (oim mice) reduced fracture susceptibility, increased bone strength, improved bone quality and micro-architecture, normalised bone remodelling and reduced TNFα and TGFβ sigalling. Donor cells engrafted into bones and differentiated into osteoblasts but importantly, also promoted endogenous osteogenesis and the maturation of resident osteoblasts. Together, these findings identify AFSC transplantation as a countermeasure to bone fragility. These data have wider implications for bone health and fracture reduction.

Concepts: Bone, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Cartilage, Endochondral ossification, Intramembranous ossification


Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) is a rare and as yet untreatable, genetic disorder of progressive extraskeletal ossification, is the most disabling form of heterotopic ossification (HO) in humans and causes skeletal deformities, movement impairment and premature death. Most FOP patients carry an activating mutation in a BMP type I receptor gene, ACVR1(R206H) , that promotes ectopic chondrogenesis and osteogenesis and in turn HO. We showed previously that the retinoic acid receptor γ (RARγ) agonist Palovarotene effectively inhibited HO in injury-induced and genetic mouse models of the disease. Here we report that the drug additionally prevents spontaneous HO, using a novel conditional-on knock-in mouse line carrying the human ACVR1(R206H) mutation for classic FOP. In addition, Palovarotene restored long bone growth, maintained growth plate function, and protected growing mutant neonates when given to lactating mothers. Importantly, Palovarotene maintained joint, limb and body motion, providing clear evidence for its encompassing therapeutic potential as a treatment for FOP. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Skeletal system, Cartilage, Endochondral ossification, Intramembranous ossification, Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, Retinoic acid receptor


JAG1, the gene for the Jagged-1 ligand (Jag1) in the Notch signaling pathway, is variably mutated in Alagille Syndrome (ALGS). ALGS patients have skeletal defects, and additionally JAG1 has been shown to be associated with low bone mass through genome wide association studies. Plating human osteoblast precursors (mesenchymal stem cells – hMSC) on Jag1 is sufficient to induce osteoblast differentiation; however, exposure of mouse MSC (mMSC) to Jag1 actually inhibits osteoblastogenesis. Overexpression of the notch-2 intracellular domain (NICD) is sufficient to mimic the effect of Jag1 on hMSC osteoblastogenesis, while blocking Notch signaling with a gamma-secretase inhibitor or with dominant negative mastermind inhibits Jag1 induced hMSC osteoblastogenesis. In pursuit of interacting signaling pathways, we discovered that treatment with a PKCδ inhibitor abrogates Jag1 induced hMSC osteoblastogenesis. Jag1 results in rapid PKCδ nuclear translocation and kinase activation. Furthermore, Jag1 stimulates the physical interaction of PKCδ with NICD. Collectively, these results suggest that Jag1 induces hMSC osteoblast differentiation through canonical Notch signaling and requires concomitant PKCδ signaling. This research also demonstrates potential deficiencies in using mouse models to study ALGS bone abnormalities.

Concepts: Bone, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Skeletal system, Interaction, Intramembranous ossification, Alagille syndrome