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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2002 Apr 1;22(4):549-53.

RANK ligand and osteoprotegerin: paracrine regulators of bone metabolism and vascular function.

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Divisions of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Philipps-University, Marburg, Germany.


In 1997, investigators isolated a secreted glycoprotein that blocked osteoclast differentiation from precursor cells, prevented osteoporosis (decreased bone mass) when administered to ovariectomized rats, and resulted in osteopetrosis (increased bone mass) when overexpressed in transgenic mice. Since then, the isolation and characterization of the protein named osteoprotegerin (OPG) has stimulated much work in the fields of endocrinology, rheumatology, and immunology. OPG functions as a soluble decoy receptor for receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappaB ligand (RANKL, or OPG ligand) and shares homologies with other members of the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily. OPG acts by competing with the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappaB, which is expressed on osteoclasts and dendritic cells for specifically binding to RANKL. RANKL is crucially involved in osteoclast functions and bone remodeling as well as immune cell cross-talks, dendritic cell survival, and lymph node organogenesis. More recently, emerging evidence from in vitro studies and mouse genetics attributed OPG an important role in vascular biology. In fact, OPG could represent the long sought-after molecular link between arterial calcification and bone resorption, which underlies the clinical coincidence of vascular disease and osteoporosis, which are most prevalent in postmenopausal women and elderly people.

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