Osteocytes, entrapped within a newly mineralized bone matrix, possess a unique cellular identity due to a specialized morphology and a molecular signature. These features endow them to serve as a bone response mechanism for mechanical stress in their microenvironment. Sclerostin, a primarily osteocyte product, is widely considered as a mechanotranduction key molecule whose expression is suppressed by mechanical loading, or it is induced by unloading. This review presents a model suggesting that sclerostin is major mediator for integrating mechanical, local, and hormonal signals, sensed by the osteocytes, in controlling the remodeling apparatus. This central role is achieved through interplay between two opposing mechanisms: (1) unloading-induced high sclerostin levels, which antagonize Wnt-canonical-β-catenin signaling in osteocytes and osteoblasts, permitting simultaneously Wnt-noncanonical and/or other pathways in osteocytes and osteoclasts, directed at bone resorption; (2) mechanical loading results in low sclerostin levels, activation of Wnt-canonical signaling, and bone formation. Therefore, adaptive bone remodeling occurring at a distinct bone compartment is orchestrated by altered sclerostin levels, which regulate the expression of the other osteocyte-specific proteins, such as RANKL, OPG, and proteins encoded by “mineralization-related genes” (DMP1, PHEX, and probably FGF23). For example, under specific terms, sclerostin regulates differential RANKL and OPG production, and creates a dynamic RANKL/OPG ratio, leading either to bone formation or resorption. It also controls the expression of PHEX, DMP1, and most likely FGF23, leading to either bone matrix mineralization or its inhibition. Such opposing up- or down-regulation of remodeling phases allows osteocytes to function as an “external unit”, ensuring transition from bone resorption to bone formation.
Mini Abstract: The osteocyte network plays a central role in directing bone response either to mechanical loading, or to unloading, leading correspondingly to bone formation or resorption. This review shows a key role of the osteocyte-produced sclerostin as a major mediator of the molecular mechanisms involved in the process of adaptive bone remodeling.
- Bone remodeling