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Bone health

August 2011

The osteoblast: an insulin target cell controlling glucose homeostasis.

The past five years have witnessed the emergence and discovery of unexpected functions played by the skeleton in whole-organism physiology. Among these newly described tasks is the role of bone in the control of energy metabolism, which is achieved through the secretion of osteocalcin, an osteoblasts-derived hormone regulating insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity, and energy expenditure. These initial findings raised several fundamental questions on the nature of insulin action in bone. Discoveries made independently by our two groups have provided answers recently to some of these questions. Through the analysis of mice lacking insulin receptor (InsR) only in osteoblasts, we found that insulin signaling in these cells favors whole-body glucose homeostasis. Importantly, this function of insulin signaling in osteoblasts was achieved through the negative regulation of osteocalcin carboxylation and bioavailability. Our studies also established that insulin signaling in osteoblasts was a positive regulator not only of postnatal bone acquisition but also of bone resorption. Interestingly, it appears that insulin signaling in osteoblasts induced osteocalcin activation by stimulating osteoclast activity. Indeed, the low pH generated during bone resorption is a sufficient means to decarboxylate osteocalcin. Our findings establish that the osteoblast is an important target used by insulin to control whole-body glucose homeostasis and identify bone resorption as the mechanism regulating osteocalcin activation.

J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Apr;26(4):677-80

Integrative physiology: defined novel metabolic roles of osteocalcin.

The prevailing model of osteology is that bones constantly undergo a remodeling process, and that the differentiation and functions of osteoblasts are partially regulated by leptin through different central hypothalamic pathways. The finding that bone remodeling is regulated by leptin suggested possible endocrinal effects of bones on energy metabolism. Recently, a reciprocal relationship between bones and energy metabolism was determined whereby leptin influences osteoblast functions and, in turn, the osteoblast-derived protein osteocalcin influences energy metabolism. The metabolic effects of bones are caused by the release of osteocalcin into the circulation in an uncarboxylated form due to incomplete gamma-carboxylation. In this regard, the Esp gene encoding osteotesticular protein tyrosine phosphatase is particularly interesting because it may regulate gamma-carboxylation of osteocalcin. Novel metabolic roles of osteocalcin have been identified, including increased insulin secretion and sensitivity, increased energy expenditure, fat mass reduction, and mitochondrial proliferation and functional enhancement. To date, only a positive correlation between osteocalcin and energy metabolism in humans has been detected, leaving causal effects unresolved. Further research topics include: identification of the osteocalcin receptor; the nature of osteocalcin regulation in other pathways regulating metabolism; crosstalk between nutrition, osteocalcin, and energy metabolism; and potential applications in the treatment of metabolic diseases.

J Korean Med Sci. 2010 Jul;25(7):985-91

Bone: from a reservoir of minerals to a regulator of energy metabolism.

Besides locomotion, organ protection, and calcium-phosphorus homeostasis, the three classical functions of the skeleton, bone remodeling affects energy metabolism through uncarboxylated osteocalcin, a recently discovered hormone secreted by osteoblasts. This review traces how energy metabolism affects osteoblasts through the central control of bone mass involving leptin, serotoninergic neurons, the hypothalamus, and the sympathetic nervous system. Next, the role of osteocalcin (insulin secretion, insulin sensitivity, and pancreas β-cell proliferation) in the regulation of energy metabolism is described. Then, the connections between insulin signaling on osteoblasts and the release of uncarboxylated osteocalcin during osteoclast bone resorption through osteoprotegerin are reported. Finally, the understanding of this new bone endocrinology will provide some insights into bone, kidney, and energy metabolism in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Kidney Int Suppl. 2011 Apr;(121):S14-9

Physiology of bone.

Bone serves three main physiological functions. Its mechanical nature provides support for locomotion and offers protection to vulnerable internal organs, it forms a reservoir for storage of calcium and phosphate in the body, and it provides an environment for bone marrow and for the development of haematopoietic cells. The traditional view of a passive tissue responding to hormonal and dietary influences has changed over the past half century to one of a dynamic adaptive tissue responding to mechanical demands. This chapter gathers together some recent advances in bone physiology and molecular cell biology and discusses the potential application of the bone’s functional adaptation to loading in enhancing bone strength during childhood and adolescence.

Endocr Dev. 2009;16:32-48

The new kidney disease: improving global outcomes (KDIGO) guidelines - expert clinical focus on bone and vascular calcification.

Chronic kidney disease-mineral and bone disorder (CKD-MBD) defines a triad of interrelated abnormalities of serum biochemistry, bone and the vasculature associated with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The new kidney disease: improving global outcomes (KDIGO) guidelines define the quality and depth of evidence supporting therapeutic intervention in CKD-MBD. They also highlight where patient management decisions lack a strong evidence base. Expert interpretation of the guidelines, along with informed opinion, where evidence is weak, may help develop effective clinical practice. The body of evidence linking poor bone health and reservoir function (the ability of bone to buffer calcium and phosphorus) with vascular calcification and cardiovascular outcomes is growing. Treating renal bone disease should be one of the primary aims of therapy for CKD. Evaluation of the biochemical parameters of CKD-MBD (primarily phosphorus, calcium, parathyroid hormone and vitamin D levels) as early as CKD Stage 3, and an assessment of bone status (by the best means available), should be used to guide treatment decisions. The adverse effects of high phosphorus intake relative to renal clearance (including stimulation of hyperparathyroidism) precede hyperphosphatemia, which presents late in CKD. Early reduction of phosphorus load may ameliorate these adverse effects. Evidence that calcium load may influence progression of vascular calcification with effects on mortality should also be considered when choosing the type and dose of phosphate binder to be used. The risks, benefits, and strength of evidence for various treatment options for the abnormalities of CKD-MBD are considered.

Clin Nephrol. 2010 Dec;74(6):423-32


Bone is a complex organ which contains an organic matrix which serves as scaffolding, includes mineral as calcium distributed in a pattern providing structure and serves as an ion reservoir for the body. Throughout life it dynamically changes in response to changes in activity, body mass, and weight bearing. It is important to define patients at risk for bone loss, since accrued bone loss leading to osteoporosis in the older population of both men and women is unacceptable. There are many different therapies including biphosphonates which can decrease loss of bone and decrease fracture risk in patients who already have had sustained a fracture. Newer therapies such as parathyroid hormone may improve the fracture risk even more than biphosphonates over a shorter period of time.

Clin Geriatr Med. 2005 Aug;21(3):603-29

Control of bone remodeling by nervous system. Regulation of glucose metabolism by skeleton. - Tangent point with nervous system.

It has been demonstrated that osteocalcin, osteoblast-secreted molecule, regulates energy metabolism through acting on pancreatic β-cells and adipocytes, while it has been established that the adipocyte-derived hormone leptin regulates bone metabolism through central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. Recently, it has been reported that sympathetic tone into osteoblasts is a mediator of leptin regulation of insulin secretion. These functional relationship between bone and multiple organs illustrates the pivotal role of the skeleton in the regulation of our major physiological functions including energy metabolism.

Clin Calcium. 2010 Dec;20(12):1814-9

Energy regulation by the skeleton.

Bones of the skeleton are constantly remodeled through bone resorption by cells called osteoclasts and bone formation by cells called osteoblasts. Both cell types are under multi-hormone control. New research findings demonstrate that bone formation by osteoblasts is negatively regulated by the hormone leptin, which is secreted by adipocytes and acts through the leptin receptor in the central nervous system and ultimately through the sympathetic nervous system. Leptin deficiency leads to increased osteoblast activity and increased bone mass. Reciprocally, expression of the Esp gene, exclusive to osteoblasts, regulates glucose homeostasis and adiposity through controlling the osteoblastic secretion of the hormone-like substance osteocalcin. An undercarboxylated form of osteocalcin acts as a regulator of insulin in the pancreas and adiponectin in the adipocyte to modulate energy metabolism. Osteocalcin deficiency in knockout mice leads to decreased insulin and adiponectin secretion, insulin resistance, higher serum glucose levels and increased adiposity.

Nutr Rev. 2008 Apr;66(4):229-33

Insulin signaling in osteoblasts integrates bone remodeling and energy metabolism.

The broad expression of the insulin receptor suggests that the spectrum of insulin function has not been fully described. A cell type expressing this receptor is the osteoblast, a bone-specific cell favoring glucose metabolism through a hormone, osteocalcin, that becomes active once uncarboxylated. We show here that insulin signaling in osteoblasts is necessary for whole-body glucose homeostasis because it increases osteocalcin activity. To achieve this function insulin signaling in osteoblasts takes advantage of the regulation of osteoclastic bone resorption exerted by osteoblasts. Indeed, since bone resorption occurs at a pH acidic enough to decarboxylate proteins, osteoclasts determine the carboxylation status and function of osteocalcin. Accordingly, increasing or decreasing insulin signaling in osteoblasts promotes or hampers glucose metabolism in a bone resorption-dependent manner in mice and humans. Hence, in a feed-forward loop, insulin signals in osteoblasts activate a hormone, osteocalcin, that promotes glucose metabolism.

Cell. 2010 Jul 23;142(2):296-308

Intermittent injections of osteocalcin improve glucose metabolism and prevent type 2 diabetes in mice.

The uncarboxylated form of the osteoblast-specific secreted molecule osteocalcin is a hormone favoring glucose handling and increasing energy expenditure. As a result, the absence of osteocalcin leads to glucose intolerance in mice, while genetically modified mice with an increase in uncarboxylated osteocalcin are protected from type 2 diabetes and obesity. Here, we tested in the mouse the therapeutic potential of intermittent administration of osteocalcin. We found that daily injections of osteocalcin at either 3 or 30ng/g/day significantly improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in mice fed a normal diet. This was attributable, in part, to an increase in both β-cell mass and insulin secretion. When mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD), daily injections of osteocalcin partially restored insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. Moreover, mice treated with intermittent osteocalcin injections displayed additional mitochondria in their skeletal muscle, had increased energy expenditure and were protected from diet-induced obesity. Finally, the hepatic steatosis induced by the HFD was completely rescued in mice receiving osteocalcin daily. Overall, these results provide evidence that daily injections of osteocalcin can improve glucose handling and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Bone. 2011 Apr 29

Cross-sectional evidence of a signaling pathway from bone homeostasis to glucose metabolism.

Context: Preclinical studies suggested the existence of a signaling pathway connecting bone and glucose metabolisms. Supposedly leptin modulates osteocalcin bioactivity, which in turn stimulates insulin and adiponectin secretion, and β-cell proliferation. Objective: The objective of the investigation was to study the reciprocal relationships of adiponectin, leptin, osteocalcin, insulin resistance, and insulin secretion to verify whether such relationships are consistent with a signaling pathway connecting bone homeostasis and glucose metabolism. Design: This was a cross-sectional analysis. Setting: The study was conducted with community-dwelling volunteers participating in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Participants: Two hundred eighty women and 300 men with complete data on fasting plasma adiponectin, leptin, and osteocalcin, oral glucose tolerance test (plasma glucose and insulin values available at t = 0, 20, and 120 min), and anthropometric measures participated in the study. Main Outcome Measures: Linear regression models were used to test independent associations of adiponectin, osteocalcin, and leptin with the indices of insulin resistance and secretion. The expected reciprocal relationship between different biomarkers was verified by structural equation modeling. Results: In linear regression models, leptin was strongly associated with indices of both insulin resistance and secretion. Both adiponectin and osteocalcin were negatively associated with insulin resistance. Structural equation modeling revealed a direct inverse association of leptin with osteocalcin; a direct positive association of osteocalcin with adiponectin; and an inverse relationship of osteocalcin with insulin resistance and adiponectin with insulin resistance and secretion, which is cumulatively consistent with the hypothesized model. Conclusions: Bone and glucose metabolisms are probably connected through a complex pathway that involves leptin, osteocalcin, and adiponectin. The clinical relevance of such a pathway for bone pathology in diabetes should be further investigated.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jun;96(6):E884-90

Leptin resistance and obesity.

The prevalence of obesity, and the human and economic costs of the disease, creates a need for better therapeutics and better understanding of the physiological processes that balance energy intake and energy expenditure. Leptin is the primary signal from energy stores and exerts negative feedback effects on energy intake. In common obesity, leptin loses the ability to inhibit energy intake and increase energy expenditure; this is termed leptin resistance. This review discusses the evidence in support of leptin resistance in mouse models and humans and the possible mechanisms of leptin resistance.

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Aug;14 Suppl 5:254S-258S

Plasma leptin: associations with metabolic, inflammatory and haemostatic risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

BACKGROUND AND AIM: Leptin, an adipocyte-derived protein, regulating food intake and metabolism has been implicated in the development of coronary heart disease. We have examined the relationship between leptin and vascular risk factors including insulin resistance, metabolic, inflammatory and haemostatic risk factors. METHODS AND RESULTS: The study was carried out in 3,640 non-diabetic men aged 60-79 years drawn from general practices in 24 British towns and who were not on warfarin. Leptin was strongly positively correlated with waist circumference (r=0.58; p<0.0001). Leptin concentrations decreased significantly with increasing physical activity and were lowered in cigarette smokers and elevated in men with pre-existing coronary heart disease and stroke; alcohol intake showed no association with leptin concentration. After adjustment for waist circumference and these lifestyle factors, increased leptin was independently associated with significant increases in insulin resistance, triglycerides, inflammatory markers (interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, plasma viscosity), coagulation factor VIII, endothelial markers von Willebrand factor, tissue plasminogen activator, and fibrin D-dimer levels; and a decrease in HDL-cholesterol. No association was seen between leptin and blood pressure, total cholesterol, glucose or white cell count after adjusting for waist circumference. Further adjustment for insulin resistance abolished the relationships between leptin and triglycerides and HDL-cholesterol, weakened the associations with the haemostatic factors although they remained significant, but made minor differences to the associations with inflammatory markers.

Atherosclerosis. 2007 Apr;191(2):418-26

Elevated circulating leptin levels in arterial hypertension: relationship to arteriovenous overflow and extraction of leptin.

Leptin, a peptide hormone produced mainly in fat cells, appears to be important for the regulation of metabolism, insulin secretion/sensitivity and body weight. Recently, elevated plasma leptin levels have been reported in patients with arterial hypertension. Because a change in circulating leptin concentrations in such patients could be caused by altered rates of production or disposal, or both, the aim of the present study was to identify regions of leptin overflow into the bloodstream and of leptin extraction. Patients with arterial hypertension (n=12) and normotensive controls (n=20) were studied during catheterization with elective blood sampling from different vascular beds (artery, and renal, hepatic, iliac and cubital veins). Plasma leptin was determined by a radioimmunoassay. Patients with hypertension had significantly elevated levels of circulating leptin (12.8 ng/l, compared with 4.1 ng/l in the controls; P<0.001), and this was also the case when adjusted for body mass index (BMI) [0.435 and 0.167 ng/l per unit BMI (kg/m(2)) respectively; P<0.001]. Circulating leptin was directly related to arterial blood pressure (r=0.38-0.62, P</=0.05-0.005) and immunoreactive insulin (r=0.51, P<0.62), but not to plasma renin activity. A significant renal extraction ratio for leptin was seen in the hypertensive patients, but this was not significantly lower than that in the controls (0.09 compared with 0. 16; P=0.1). The hypertensive patients had a significantly higher hepatic venous/arterial leptin ratio than the controls (1.02 compared with 0.93; P<0.02), and this ratio was correlated directly with the BMI (r=0.38, P=0.05) and immunoreactive insulin (r=0.43, P<0.05). In both hypertensive patients and controls there was a significant spillover of leptin into the iliac vein, but not into the cubital vein. In conclusion, the high concentration of circulating leptin in patients with arterial hypertension is probably caused by increased release of leptin from abdominal (especially mesenteric and omental) and gluteal adipose tissue stores, and renal extraction is slightly reduced. Leptin kinetics in arterial hypertension require further investigation.

Clin Sci (Lond). 2000 Dec;99(6):527-34