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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Aug 6;320(4):1163-8.

Shear stress inhibits while disuse promotes osteocyte apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Oral Cell Biology, Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam-Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Cell apoptosis operates as an organizing mechanism in biology in addition to removing effete cells. We have recently proposed that during bone remodeling, osteocyte apoptosis steers osteonal alignment in relation to mechanical loading of the whole bone [J. Biomech. 36 (2003) 1453]. Here we present evidence that osteocyte apoptosis in cell culture is modulated by shear stress. Under static culture conditions, serum starved osteocytes exposed phosphatidylserine (PS) on their cell membrane 6x more often than periosteal fibroblasts and 3x more often than osteoblasts. Treatment with shear stress reduced the number of osteocytes that exposed PS by 90%, but did not affect the other cell types. Fluid shear stress of increasing magnitude, dose-dependently stimulated Bcl-2 mRNA expression in human bone cells, while shear stress did not change Bax expression. These data suggest that disuse promotes osteocyte apoptosis, while mechanical stimulation by fluid shear stress promotes osteocyte survival, by modulating the Bcl-2/Bax expression ratio.

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