Lactation induces bone loss to provide sufficient calcium in the milk, a process that involves osteoclastic bone resorption but also osteocytes and perilacunar resorption. The exact mechanisms by which osteocytes contribute to bone loss remain elusive. Osteocytes express genes required in osteoclasts for bone resorption, including cathepsin K (Ctsk), and lactation elevates their expression. We show that Ctsk deletion in osteocytes prevented the increase in osteocyte lacunar area seen during lactation, as well as the effects of lactation to increase osteoclast numbers and decrease trabecular bone volume, cortical thickness, and mechanical properties. In addition, we show that Ctsk deletion in osteocytes increased bone parathyroid hormone–related peptide (PTHrP) and prevented the decrease in serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) induced by lactation, but amplified the increase in serum 1,25-dyhydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D]. The net result of these changes is to maintain serum and milk calcium levels in the normal range, ensuring normal offspring skeletal development. Our studies confirm the fundamental role of osteocytic perilacunar remodeling in physiological states of lactation and provide genetic evidence that osteocyte-derived Ctsk contributes not only to osteocyte perilacunar remodeling, but also to the regulation of PTH, PTHrP, 1,25(OH)2D, osteoclastogenesis, and bone loss in response to the high calcium demand associated with lactation.


Sutada Lotinun, Yoshihito Ishihara, Kenichi Nagano, Riku Kiviranta, Vincent T. Carpentier, Lynn Neff, Virginia Parkman, Noriko Ide, Dorothy Hu, Pamela Dann, Daniel Brooks, Mary L. Bouxsein, John Wysolmerski, Francesca Gori, Roland Baron


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