Loss of sex steroids causes an increase in both the resorption and formation of bone, with the former exceeding the latter. Based on evidence that the increased bone resorption after estrogen loss is due to an increase in osteoclastogenesis, we hypothesized that estrogen loss also stimulates osteoblastogenesis. We report that the number of mesenchymal osteoblast progenitors in the murine bone marrow was increased two- to threefold between 2 and 8 wk after ovariectomy and returned to control levels by 16 wk. Circulating osteocalcin, as well as osteoclastogenesis and the rate of bone loss, followed a very similar temporal pattern. Inhibition of bone resorption by administration of the bisphosphonate alendronate led to a decrease of the absolute number of osteoblast progenitors; however, it did not influence the stimulating effect of ovariectomy on osteoblastogenesis or osteoclastogenesis. These observations indicate that the increased bone formation that follows loss of estrogen can be explained, at least in part, by an increase in osteoblastogenesis. Moreover, they strongly suggest that unlike normal bone remodeling, whereby osteoblast development is stimulated by factors released from the bone matrix during osteoclastic resorption, estrogen deficiency unleashes signals that can stimulate the differentiation of osteoblast progenitors in a fashion that is autonomous from the need created by bone resorption, and therefore, inappropriate.


R L Jilka, K Takahashi, M Munshi, D C Williams, P K Roberson, S C Manolagas


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