Osteoporosis International

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 1329–1336 | Cite as

Changes in osteocyte density correspond with changes in osteoblast and osteoclast activity in an osteoporotic sheep model

  • M. R. Zarrinkalam
  • A. Mulaibrahimovic
  • G. J. Atkins
  • R. J. Moore
Original Article



Histomorphometric assessment of trabecular bone in osteoporotic sheep showed that bone volume, osteoid surface area, bone formation rate, and osteocyte density were reduced. In contrast, eroded surface area and empty lacunae density were increased. Changes in osteocyte density correlated with changes in osteoblast and osteoclast activity.


Osteocytes contribute to the regulation of the activity of osteoclasts and osteoblasts that together control bone mass. Osteocytes therefore likely play a role in the loss of bone mass associated with osteoporosis. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between osteocyte lacunar density and other bone histomorphometric parameters in the iliac crest (IC) and lumbar spine (LS) of osteoporotic sheep.


Osteoporosis was induced in ten mature ewes by an established protocol involving a combination of ovariectomy, dexamethasone injection, and low calcium diet for 6 months. Five ewes were used as controls. Post-mortem IC and LS biopsies were collected and processed for further histomorphometric assessment.


Bone volume, osteoid surface, and bone formation rate in the IC and LS of osteoporotic sheep were reduced compared to those of the controls. In contrast, eroded surface area was increased in osteoporotic sheep. In the osteoporotic group, osteocyte density was reduced in the LS region and to a greater extent in the IC region. The empty osteocyte lacunae were increased 1.7-fold in LS and 2.1-fold in IC in the osteoporotic group. The osteocyte density correlated positively with markers of osteoblast activity and negatively with those of osteoclast activity.


Depletion of osteocytes and an increase in the empty lacunae could be important factors contributing to bone loss in this model since they may adversely affect intercellular communication between osteoblasts and osteoclasts. The regional differences in histology suggest that there may be different pathological mechanisms operating at different anatomical sites.


Lumbar spine and iliac crest Osteocyte density Osteoporosis Sheep 


Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Zarrinkalam
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. Mulaibrahimovic
    • 1
    • 2
  • G. J. Atkins
    • 2
    • 3
  • R. J. Moore
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.The Adelaide Centre for Spinal ResearchSA Pathology, Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science (IMVS)AdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science, Hanson InstituteAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Bone Cell Biology Group, Discipline of Orthopaedics and TraumaUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  4. 4.Discipline of PathologyUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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