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MicroRNA Functions in Osteogenesis and Dysfunctions in Osteoporosis

  • Skeletal Biology (DB Burr, Section Editor)
  • Published:
Current Osteoporosis Reports Aims and scope Submit manuscript


MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are critical post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression that control osteoblast mediated bone formation and osteoclast-related bone remodeling. Deregulation of miRNA mediated mechanisms is emerging as an important pathological factor in bone degeneration (eg, osteoporosis) and other bone-related diseases. MiRNAs are intriguing regulatory molecules that are networked with cell signaling pathways and intricate transcriptional programs through ingenuous circuits with remarkably simple logic. This overview examines key principles by which miRNAs control differentiation of osteoblasts as they evolve from mesenchymal stromal cells during osteogenesis, or of osteoclasts as they originate from monocytic precursors in the hematopoietic lineage during osteoclastogenesis. Of particular note are miRNAs that are temporally upregulated during osteoblastogenesis (eg, miR-218) or osteoclastogenesis (eg, miR-148a). Each miRNA stimulates differentiation by suppressing inhibitory signaling pathways (‘double-negative’ regulation). The excitement surrounding miRNAs in bone biology stems from the prominent effects that individual miRNAs can have on biological transitions during differentiation of skeletal cells and correlations of miRNA dysfunction with bone diseases. MiRNAs have significant clinical potential which is reflected by their versatility as disease-specific biomarkers and their promise as therapeutic agents to ameliorate or reverse bone tissue degeneration.

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We thank the members of our laboratories for critical comments and sharing of ideas. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant R01AR049069 (to AvW).


AJ van Wijnen, J van de Peppel, JP van Leeuwen, JB Lian, GS Stein, JJ Westendorf, MJ Oursler, HJI Sampen, H Taipaleenmaki, E Hesse, S Riester and S Kakar declare no conflicts of interest.

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van Wijnen, A.J., van de Peppel, J., van Leeuwen, J.P. et al. MicroRNA Functions in Osteogenesis and Dysfunctions in Osteoporosis. Curr Osteoporos Rep 11, 72–82 (2013).

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