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J Clin Invest. 2012 Nov;122(11):4172-89. doi: 10.1172/JCI63377. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Osteoblasts mediate the adverse effects of glucocorticoids on fuel metabolism.

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Bone Research Program, ANZAC Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.


Long-term glucocorticoid treatment is associated with numerous adverse outcomes, including weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes; however, the pathogenesis of these side effects remains obscure. Glucocorticoids also suppress osteoblast function, including osteocalcin synthesis. Osteocalcin is an osteoblast-specific peptide that is reported to be involved in normal murine fuel metabolism. We now demonstrate that osteoblasts play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of glucocorticoid-induced dysmetabolism. Osteoblast-targeted disruption of glucocorticoid signaling significantly attenuated the suppression of osteocalcin synthesis and prevented the development of insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and abnormal weight gain in corticosterone-treated mice. Nearly identical effects were observed in glucocorticoid-treated animals following heterotopic (hepatic) expression of both carboxylated and uncarboxylated osteocalcin through gene therapy, which additionally led to a reduction in hepatic lipid deposition and improved phosphorylation of the insulin receptor. These data suggest that the effects of exogenous high-dose glucocorticoids on insulin target tissues and systemic energy metabolism are mediated, at least in part, through the skeleton.

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