Analysis of the Effect of Osteon Diameter on the Potential Relationship of Osteocyte Lacuna Density and Osteon Wall Thickness



An important hypothesis is that the degree of infilling of secondary osteons (Haversian systems) is controlled by the inhibitory effect of osteocytes on osteoblasts, which might be mediated by sclerostin (a glycoprotein produced by osteocytes). Consequently, this inhibition could be proportional to cell number: relatively greater repression is exerted by progressively greater osteocyte density (increased osteocytes correlate with thinner osteon walls). This hypothesis has been examined, but only weakly supported, in sheep ulnae. We looked for this inverse relationship between osteon wall thickness (On.W.Th) and osteocyte lacuna density (Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar) in small and large osteons in human ribs, calcanei of sheep, deer, elk, and horses, and radii and third metacarpals of horses. Analyses involved: (1) all osteons, (2) smaller osteons, either ≤150 μm diameter or less than or equal to the mean diameter, and (3) larger osteons (>mean diameter). Significant, but weak, correlations between Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar and On.W.Th/On.Dm (On.Dm = osteon diameter) were found when considering all osteons in limb bones (r values −0.16 to −0.40, P < 0.01; resembling previous results in sheep ulnae: r = −0.39, P < 0.0001). In larger osteons, these relationships were either not significant (five/seven bone types) or very weak (two/seven bone types). In ribs, a negative relationship was only found in smaller osteons (r = −0.228, P < 0.01); this inverse relationship in smaller osteons did not occur in elk calcanei. These results do not provide clear or consistent support for the hypothesized inverse relationship. However, correlation analyses may fail to detect osteocyte-based repression of infilling if the signal is spatially nonuniform (e.g., increased near the central canal). Anat Rec,, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.