A Novel microCT Method for Bone and Marrow Adipose Tissue Alignment Identifies Key Differences Between Mandible and Tibia in Rats


Bone homeostasis is influenced by the bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT). BMAT distribution varies from one anatomical location in the skeleton to another. We developed an advanced microfocus computed tomography imaging and analysis protocol that allows accurate alignment of both the BMAT distribution and bone micro-architecture as well as calculation of the distance of the BMAT adipocytes from the bone surface. Using this protocol, we detected a different spatial BMAT distribution between the rat tibia and mandible: in the proximal metaphysis of the tibia a large amount of BMAT (~ 20% of the total BMAT) was located close to the bone surface (< 20 µm), whereas in the alveolar ridge ~ 30% of the total BMAT was located between 40 and 60 µm from the bone surface. In the alveolar ridge of rats, the trabecular bone volume was 48.3% higher compared to the proximal metaphysis of the tibia (p < 0.0001) and the percentage of adiposity determined to the relative marrow volume was lower (1.5%) compared to the proximal metaphysis of the tibia (9%, p = 0.0002). Interestingly, in the tibia a negative correlation was found between the percentage of adiposity in the total volume and the trabecular thickness (r =− 0.74, p = 0.037). The present study highlights that in comparison to tibial proximal metaphysis, the mandibular bone exhibits a massive trabecular network and a low BMAT content with almost no contact with the bone surface. These findings are of great interest because of the importance of the fat–bone interaction and its potential relevance to several resorptive bone diseases.

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The authors thank the staff of the animal care facility (DHURE, Lille, France) for supplying the help on surgical procedures. This study was supported by the French Society of Rheumatology (SFR). GK acknowledges the Research Foundation—Flanders for her postdoctoral Grant (FWO/12R4315N) and her travel grant for a 6-months stay abroad in the PMOI lab.


This study was supported by the French Society of Rheumatology.

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GP, CO, XC conceived and designed the experiments. XC, CO, PM, JD, GK performed the experiments (acquisition, analysis and/or interpretation of the data). XC drafted the manuscript. All authors critically revised the article and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xavier Coutel.

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Xavier Coutel, Cécile Olejnik, Pierre Marchandise, Jérôme Delattre, Hélène Béhal, Greet Kerckhofs, and Guillaume Penel declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Coutel, X., Olejnik, C., Marchandise, P. et al. A Novel microCT Method for Bone and Marrow Adipose Tissue Alignment Identifies Key Differences Between Mandible and Tibia in Rats. Calcif Tissue Int 103, 189–197 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00223-018-0397-1

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  • Rats
  • Jaw bone
  • Osmium staining
  • Bone structure
  • Micro-computed tomography imaging
  • Adipocytes