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Eur Cytokine Netw. 2002 Apr-Jun;13(2):144-53.

Osteoprotegerin and inflammation.

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  • 1Groupe de Recherches en Immunopathologie et Immunointervention, UPRES EA-3408, Formation associée Claud Bernard and Service de Rhumatologie, Hôpital Avicenne, AH-AP, Université Paris 13, UFR Léonard-de Vinci, Bobigny, France.


RANK, RANKL, and OPG have well established regulatory effects on bone metabolism. RANK is expressed at very high levels on osteoclastic precursors and on mature osteoclasts, and is required for differentiation and activation of the osteoclast. The ligand, RANKL binds to its receptor RANK to induce bone resorption. RANKL is a transmembrane protein expressed in various cells type and particularly on osteoblast and activated T cells. RANKL can be cleaved and the soluble form is active. Osteoprotegerin decoy receptor (OPG), a member of the TNF receptor family expressed by osteoblasts, strongly inhibits bone resorption by binding with high affinity to its ligand RANKL, thereby preventing RANKL from engaging its receptor RANK. This system is regulated by the calciotropic hormones. Conversely, the effects of RANKL, RANK, and OPG on inflammatory processes, most notably on the bone resorption associated with inflammation, remain to be defined. The RANK system seems to play a major role in modulating the immune system. Activated T cells express RANKL messenger RNA, and knock-out mice for RANKL acquire severe immunological abnormalities and osteopetrosis. RANKL secretion by activated T cells can induce osteoclastogenesis. These mechanisms are enhanced by cytokines such as TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-17, which promote both inflammation and bone resorption. Conversely, this system is blocked by OPG, IL-4, and IL-10, which inhibit both inflammation and osteoclastogenesis. These data may explain part of the abnormal phenomena in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis characterized by both inflammation and destruction. Activated T cells within the rheumatoid synovium express RANKL. Synovial cells are capable of differentiating to osteoclast-like cells under some conditions, including culturing with M-CSF and RANKL. This suggests that the bone erosion seen in rheumatoid arthritis may result from RANKL/RANK system activation by activated T cells. This opens up the possibility that OPG may have therapeutic effects mediated by blockade of the RANKL/RANK system.

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