, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 1771-1789

Is interaction between age-dependent decline in mechanical stimulation and osteocyte–estrogen receptor levels the culprit for postmenopausal-impaired bone formation?

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Abstract

Declining estrogen levels during menopause are widely considered to be a major cause of age-dependent bone loss, which is primarily manifested by increased bone resorption by osteoclasts. We present accumulating evidence supporting another aspect of metabolic bone loss, suggesting that the combined interaction between age-dependent factors, namely, estrogen deficiency and reduced day-by-day activity/mechanical stimulation, directly leads to a reduction in anabolic processes. Such decreased bone formation results in diminished bone strength and failure to maintain the load-bearing competence of a healthy skeleton and to postmenopausal osteoporosis disorder. Estrogen receptors (ERs), as mediators of estrogenic actions, are essential components of bone osteocyte and osteoblast mechano-adaptive responses. ER expression appears to be upregulated by adequate circulating estrogen levels. ERα signaling pathways participate in the mechanotransduction response through obligatory “non-genomic” actions that occur independently of estrogen binding to ER and by a potentially “genomic”, estrogen-dependent mode. The experimental data indicate that cross talk between the ERα-“non-genomic” and Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathways constitutes the major regulatory mechanism. This interaction uses mechanically and ER-induced prostaglandin E2 as a mediator for the downregulation of osteocyte production of sclerostin. Sclerostin suppression, in turn, is a central prerequisite for load-induced formation and mineralization of the bone matrix. It is therefore plausible that future strategies for preventing and treating postmenopausal osteoporosis may use estrogenic compounds (such as selective estrogen receptor modulators or phytoestrogens) with physical activity, to complement antiresorptive therapy, aimed at stopping further bone loss and possibly even reversing it by stimulation of bone gain.