The Osteocyte: New Insights

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Scopus citations


Osteocytes are an ancient cell, appearing in fossilized skeletal remains of early fish and dinosaurs. Despite its relative high abundance, even in the context of nonskeletal cells, the osteocyte is perhaps among the least studied cells in all of vertebrate biology. Osteocytes are cells embedded in bone, able to modify their surrounding extracellular matrix via specialized molecular remodeling mechanisms that are independent of the bone forming osteoblasts and bone-resorbing osteoclasts. Osteocytes communicate with osteoclasts and osteoblasts via distinct signaling molecules that include the RankL/OPG axis and the Sost/Dkk1/Wnt axis, among others. Osteocytes also extend their influence beyond the local bone environment by functioning as an endocrine cell that controls phosphate reabsorption in the kidney, insulin secretion in the pancreas, and skeletal muscle function. These cells are also finely tuned sensors of mechanical stimulation to coordinate with effector cells to adjust bone mass, size, and shape to conform to mechanical demands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-506
Number of pages22
JournalAnnual Review of Physiology
StatePublished - 2020


  • FGF23
  • mechanosensation
  • osteocytes
  • perilacunar remodeling
  • sclerostin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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