Physiological and pathological osteocytic osteolysis

Elena Tsourdi, Katharina Jähn, Martina Rauner, Björn Busse, Lynda F. Bonewald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

23 Scopus citations


Osteocytes, the most abundant bone cell in the adult skeleton, can function as mechanosensors directing osteoblast and osteoclast function in order to maintain optimal load bearing bone in addition to functioning as endocrine cells regulating phosphate metabolism. A controversial function, previously overlooked or denied, has been osteocytes as regulators of calcium metabolism. Early histologists upon observing enlarged osteocyte lacunae in bone sections proposed that mature osteocytes could remove their perilacunar matrix, a term called “osteocytic osteolysis”. New insights into this process have occurred during the last decade using novel technology thereby providing a means to identify molecular mechanisms responsible for osteocytic osteolysis. As release of calcium from a mineralized matrix requires a more acidic pH and specialized enzymes, it was proposed that osteocytes may utilize similar molecular mechanisms as osteoclasts to remove mineral. The idea that a cell descended from mesenchymal progenitors (the osteocyte) could function similarly to a cell descended from hematopoietic progenitors (the osteoclast) was challenged as being improbable. Here we review the molecular mechanisms behind this osteocyte function, the role of osteocytic osteolysis in health and disease, and the capacity of the osteocyte to reverse the osteolytic process by replacing the removed matrix, a revived osteoblast function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-303
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interactions
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Lactation
  • Osteoclast
  • Osteocyte
  • Osteocytic osteolysis
  • Parathyroid hormone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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