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Bone. 2015 Jul;76:58-66. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2015.03.019. Epub 2015 Mar 30.

In vivo mechanical loading rapidly activates β-catenin signaling in osteocytes through a prostaglandin mediated mechanism.

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UMKC School of Dentistry, Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA.
The Royal Veterinary College, Royal College Street, London, NW1 0TU, UK.
OsteoGeneX Inc, Kansas City, KS 66103, USA.
UMKC School of Dentistry, Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA; Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA.
UMKC School of Computing and Engineering, Kansas City, MO 64110, USA.
UMKC School of Dentistry, Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, Kansas City, MO 64108, USA. Electronic address:


The response of the skeleton to loading appears to be mediated through the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway and osteocytes have long been postulated to be the primary mechanosensory cells in bone. To examine the kinetics of the mechanoresponse of bone and cell types involved in vivo, we performed forearm loading of 17-week-old female TOPGAL mice. β-catenin signaling was observed only in embedded osteocytes, not osteoblasts, at 1h post-loading, spreading to additional osteocytes and finally to cells on the bone surface by 24h. This early activation at 1h appeared to be independent of receptor (Lrp5/6) mediated activation as it occurred in the presence of the inhibitors sclerostin and/or Dkk1. The COX-2 inhibitor, Carprofen, blocked the activation of β-catenin signaling and decline in sclerostin positive osteocytes post-loading implying an important role for prostaglandin. In vitro, PI3K/Akt activation was shown to be required for β-catenin nuclear translocation downstream from prostaglandin in MLO-Y4 osteocyte-like cells supporting this mechanism. Downstream targets of β-catenin signaling, sclerostin and Dkk1, were also examined and found to be significantly downregulated in osteocytes in vivo at 24h post-loading. The pattern of initially activated osteocytes appeared random and in order to understand this heterogeneous expression, a novel finite element model of the strain field in the ulna was developed, which predicts highly variable local magnitudes of strain experienced by osteocytes. In summary, both in vivo and in vitro models show the rapid activation of β-catenin in response to load through the early release of prostaglandin and that strain fields in the bone are extremely heterogeneous resulting in heterogeneous activation of the β-catenin pathway in osteocytes in vivo.


Mechanical loading; Osteocyte; Prostaglandin; Wnt/β-catenin signaling

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