Osteocyte Biology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


Osteocytes are defined as cells embedded in the mineralized bone matrix and compose over 90% to 95% of all bone cells. They are regularly dispersed throughout the mineralized matrix, connected to each other and cells on the bone surface through slender, cytoplasmic processes radiating in all directions but generally perpendicular to the bone surface. The cell processes or dendrites pass through the bone in thin canals, called canaliculi, which connect osteocytes with cells on the bone surface. These cells are defined by their location, not by their function as is the case for osteoblasts and osteoclasts. This lack of a functional definition implies a lack of knowledge of function. Since this chapter was first written in 2005, a virtual explosion of data regarding osteocyte function has occurred within the last 6 years. Previously the major function of osteocytes was thought to be to translate mechanical strain into biochemical signals between osteocytes and cells on the bone surface to affect (re)modeling. Osteocytes are thought to respond to mechanical strain to send signals of resorption or formation. Not only do these cells communicate with each other and with cells on the bone surface but their dendritic processes are in contact with the bone marrow. Multiple connections through the tips of their dendritic processes imply that osteocytes function as "communicators". Not only do these cells function as mechanosensors, communicators, and orchestrators of bone modeling and remodeling, but also as regulators of calcium and phosphate homeostasis and function as endocrine cells sending signals to distant tissues. These cells have proven to be multifunctional as outlined in this chapter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOsteoporosis
Subtitle of host publicationFourth Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9780124158535
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult skeleton
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Bone disease
  • Bone formation
  • Bone resorption
  • CD44
  • Dendrite formation
  • Gap junctions and hemichannels
  • Integrins
  • Lacunocanalicular system
  • Mechanical forces
  • Osteocytes
  • Osteoid cells
  • Osteolytic osteolysis
  • Phosphate metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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  • Cite this

    Bonewald, L. F. (2013). Osteocyte Biology. In Osteoporosis: Fourth Edition (pp. 209-234). Elsevier Inc.. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-415853-5.00010-8