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J Cell Physiol. 2013 Jun;228(6):1149-53. doi: 10.1002/jcp.24278.

Osteocalcin: skeletal and extra-skeletal effects.

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Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Rheumatology Clinic, University of Foggia, Foggia, Italy.


Osteocalcin (OC) is a non-collagenous, vitamin K-dependent protein secreted in the late stage of osteoblasts differentiation. The presence of the three residues of γ-carbossiglutamatic acid, specific of the active form of OC protein, allows the protein to bind calcium and consequently hydroxyapatite. The osteoblastic OC protein is encoded by the bone γ-carbossiglutamate gene whose transcription is principally regulated by the Runx2/Cbfa1 regulatory element and stimulated by vitamin D(3) through a steroid-responsive enhancer sequence. Even if data obtained in literature are controversial, the dual role of OC in bone can be presumed as follows: firstly, OC acts as a regulator of bone mineralization; secondly, OC regulates osteoblast and osteoclast activity. Recently the metabolic activity of OC, restricted to the un-carboxylated form has been demonstrated in osteoblast-specific knockout mice. This effect is mediated by the regulation of pancreatic β-cell proliferation and insulin secretion and adiponectin production by adipose tissue and leads to the regulation of glucose metabolism and fat mass. Nevertheless, clinical human studies only demonstrated the correlation between OC levels and factors related to energy metabolism. Thus further investigations in humans are required to demonstrate the role of OC in the regulation of human energy metabolism. Moreover, it is presumable that OC also acts on blood vessels by inducing angiogenesis and pathological mineralization. This review highlights the recent studies concerning skeletal and extra-skeletal effects of OC.

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