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J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Jul;26(7):1457-71. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.346.

DLK1 is a novel regulator of bone mass that mediates estrogen deficiency-induced bone loss in mice.

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Endocrine Research Laboratory, KMEB, Department of Endocrinology, and Medical Biotechnlogy Center, Odense University Hospital and University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.


Delta-like 1/fetal antigen 1 (DLK1/FA-1) is a transmembrane protein belonging to the Notch/Delta family that acts as a membrane-associated or a soluble protein to regulate regeneration of a number of adult tissues. Here we examined the role of DLK1/FA-1 in bone biology using osteoblast-specific Dlk1-overexpressing mice (Col1-Dlk1). Col1-Dlk1 mice displayed growth retardation and significantly reduced total body weight and bone mineral density (BMD). Micro-computed tomographis (┬ÁCT) scanning revealed a reduced trabecular and cortical bone volume fraction. Tissue-level histomorphometric analysis demonstrated decreased bone-formation rate and enhanced bone resorption in Col1-Dlk1 mice compared with wild-type mice. At a cellular level, Dlk1 markedly reduced the total number of bone marrow (BM)-derived colony-forming units fibroblasts (CFU-Fs), as well as their osteogenic capacity. In a number of in vitro culture systems, Dlk1 stimulated osteoclastogenesis indirectly through osteoblast-dependent increased production of proinflammatory bone-resorbing cytokines (eg, Il7, Tnfa, and Ccl3). We found that ovariectomy (ovx)-induced bone loss was associated with increased production of Dlk1 in the bone marrow by activated T cells. Interestingly, Dlk1(-/-) mice were significantly protected from ovx-induced bone loss compared with wild-type mice. Thus we identified Dlk1 as a novel regulator of bone mass that functions to inhibit bone formation and to stimulate bone resorption. Increasing DLK1 production by T cells under estrogen deficiency suggests its possible use as a therapeutic target for preventing postmenopausal bone loss.

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