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Bone. 2010 Feb;46(2):369-78. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2009.10.009. Epub 2009 Oct 15.

Temporal pattern of gene expression and histology of stress fracture healing.

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  • 1School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


Loading of the rat ulna is an ideal model to examine stress fracture healing. The aim of this study was to undertake a detailed examination of the histology, histomorphometry and gene expression of the healing and remodelling process initiated by fatigue loading of the rat ulna. Ulnae were harvested 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 weeks following creation of a stress fracture. Stress fracture healing involved direct remodelling that progressed along the fracture line as well as woven bone proliferation at the site of the fracture. Histomorphometry demonstrated rapid progression of basic multicellular units from 1 to 4 weeks with significant slowing down of healing by 10 weeks after loading. Quantitative PCR was performed at 4 hours, 24 hours, 4 days, 7 days, and 14 days after loading. Gene expression was compared to an unloaded control group. At 4 hours after fracture, there was a marked 220-fold increase (P<0.0001) in expression of IL-6. There were also prominent peak increases in mRNA expression for OPG, COX-2, and VEGF (all P<0.0001). At 24 hours, there was a peak increase in mRNA expression for IL-11 (73-fold increase, P<0.0001). At 4 days, there was a significant increase in mRNA expression for Bcl-2, COX-1, IGF-1, OPN, and SDF-1. At 7 days, there was significantly increased mRNA expression of RANKL and OPN. Prominent, upregulation of COX-2, VEGF, OPG, SDF-1, BMP-2, and SOST prior to peak expression of RANKL indicates the importance of these factors in mediating directed remodelling of the fracture line. Dramatic, early upregulation of IL-6 and IL-11 demonstrate their central role in initiating signalling events for remodelling and stress fracture healing.

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