The Osteocyte

J. Klein-Nulend, Lynda F. Bonewald

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

23 Scopus citations


The osteocyte is the most abundant cell type of bone. Both theoretical considerations and experimental results have strengthened the notion that osteocytes are the pivotal cells in the biomechanical regulation of bone mass and structure. This chapter compiles and analyzes the most recent findings regarding the role of osteocytes in the physiology of bone. It explores the mechanism(s) by which loading stimuli on bone are translated into biochemical stimuli that regulate bone (re) modeling, and describes the nature of these signaling molecules. It also explains how and where the mechanical and hormonal regulatory systems of bone interact. Furthermore, it elucidates the role of osteocytes not just as signaling cells, but also their active contribution to bone metabolic processes such as mineralization, a process that takes place around newly incorporated osteocytes at some distance of the bone matrix formation front. Finally, it states that osteocytes make up 90-95% of all bone cells in the adult skeleton. Collectively, any minor modulation of the entire population could have significant local and systemic effects, not only on bone, but also on other organs. Although it was postulated several decades ago that osteocytes could potentially play a role in calcium metabolism, it appears that this cell may have a more important role in phosphate metabolism. It remains to be determined how factors produced by osteocytes can enter the circulation suggesting an intimate connection between the lacuno-canalicular system and the blood supply.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPrinciples of Bone Biology, Two-Volume Set
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780123738844
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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    Klein-Nulend, J., & Bonewald, L. F. (2008). The Osteocyte. In Principles of Bone Biology, Two-Volume Set (Vol. 1, pp. 153-174). Elsevier Inc..