Through their ability to regulate gene expression in most organs, glucocorticoid (GC) hormones influence numerous physiological processes and are therefore key regulators of organismal homeostasis. In bone, GC hormones inhibit expression of the hormone Osteocalcin for poorly understood reasons. Here, we show that in a classical endocrine feedback loop, osteocalcin in return enhanced the biosynthesis of GC as well as mineralocorticoid hormones (adrenal steroidogenesis) in rodents and primates. Conversely, inactivation of osteocalcin signaling in adrenal glands significantly impaired adrenal growth and steroidogenesis in mice. Embryo-made osteocalcin was necessary for normal Sf1 expression in fetal adrenal cells and adrenal cell steroidogenic differentiation and therefore determined the number of steroidogenic cells present in the adrenal glands of adult animals. Embryonic, not postnatal, osteocalcin also governed adrenal growth, adrenal steroidogenesis, blood pressure, electrolyte equilibrium, and the rise in circulating corticosterone levels during the acute stress response in adult offspring. This osteocalcin-dependent regulation of adrenal development and steroidogenesis occurred even in the absence of a functional hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal axis and explains why osteocalcin administration during pregnancy promoted adrenal growth and steroidogenesis and improved the survival of adrenocorticotropic hormone signaling–deficient animals. This study reveals that a bone-derived embryonic hormone influences lifelong adrenal functions and organismal homeostasis in the mouse.
Vijay K. Yadav, Julian M. Berger, Parminder Singh, Perumal Nagarajan, Gerard Karsenty