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Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Dec 1;303(11):E1354-62. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00330.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

Simulated spaceflight produces a rapid and sustained loss of osteoprogenitors and an acute but transitory rise of osteoclast precursors in two genetic strains of mice.

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  • 1Division of Endocrinology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Loss of skeletal weight bearing or skeletal unloading as occurs during spaceflight inhibits bone formation and stimulates bone resorption. These are associated with a decline in the osteoblast (Ob.S/BS) and an increase in the osteoclast (Oc.S/BS) bone surfaces. To determine the temporal relationship between changes in the bone cells and their marrow precursor pools during sustained unloading, and whether genetic background influences these relationships, we used the hindlimb unloading model to induce bone loss in two strains of mice known to respond to load and having significantly different cancellous bone volumes (C57BL/6 and DBA/2 male mice). Skeletal unloading caused a progressive decline in bone volume that was accompanied by strain-specific changes in Ob.S/BS and Oc.S/BS. These were associated with a sustained reduction in the osteoprogenitor population and a dramatic but transient increase in the osteoclast precursor pool size in both strains. The results reveal that bone adaptation to skeletal unloading involves similar rapid changes in the osteoblast and osteoclast progenitor populations in both strains of mice but striking differences in Oc.S/BS dynamics, BFR, and cancellous bone structure. These strain-specific differences suggest that genetics plays an important role in determining the osteoblast and osteoclast populations on the bone surface and the dynamics of bone loss in response to skeletal unloading.

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