Osteoclasts, the cells that resorb bone, develop from hematopoietic precursors of the bone marrow under the control of factors produced in their microenvironment. The cytokine interleukin-6 can promote hematopoiesis and osteoclastogenesis. Interleukin-6 production by bone and marrow stromal cells is suppressed by 17β-estradiol in vitro. In mice, estrogen loss (ovariectomy) increased the number of colony-forming units for granulocytes and macrophages, enhanced osteoclast development in ex vivo cultures of marrow, and increased the number of osteoclasts in trabecular bone. These changes were prevented by 17β-estradiol or an antibody to interleukin-6. Thus, estrogen loss results in an interleukin-6-mediated stimulation of osteoclastogenesis, which suggests a mechanism for the increased bone resorption in postmenopausal osteoporosis.
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