Female Mice Lacking Estrogen Receptor-Alpha in Osteoblasts Have Compromised Bone Mass and Strength

Authors

  • Katherine M Melville,

    1. Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
    2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • Natalie H Kelly,

    1. Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
    2. Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • Sohaib A Khan,

    1. College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA
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  • John C Schimenti,

    1. College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
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  • F Patrick Ross,

    1. Research Division, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA
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  • Russell P Main,

    1. College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA
    2. Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA
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  • Marjolein C H van der Meulen

    Corresponding author
    1. Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
    2. Research Division, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY, USA
    • Address correspondence to: Marjolein C H van der Meulen, PhD, Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, 219 Upson Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. E-mail: mcv3@cornell.edu

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ABSTRACT

Reduced bioavailability of estrogen increases skeletal fracture risk in postmenopausal women, but the mechanisms by which estrogen regulates bone mass are incompletely understood. Because estrogen signaling in bone acts, in part, through estrogen receptor alpha (ERα), mice with global deletion of ERα (ERαKO) have been used to determine the role of estrogen signaling in bone biology. These animals, however, have confounding systemic effects arising from other organs, such as increased estrogen and decreased insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) serum levels, which may independently affect bone. Mice with tissue-specific ERα deletion in chondrocytes, osteoblasts, osteocytes, or osteoclasts lack the systemic effects seen in the global knockout, but show that presence of the receptor is important for the function of each cell type. Although bone mass is reduced when ERα is deleted from osteoblasts, no study has determined if this approach reduces whole bone strength. To address this issue, we generated female osteoblast-specific ERαKO mice (pOC-ERαKO) by crossing mice expressing a floxed ERα gene (ERαfl/fl) with mice transgenic for the osteocalcin-Cre promoter (OC-Cre). Having confirmed that serum levels of estrogen and IGF-1 were unaltered, we focused on relating bone mechanics to skeletal phenotype using whole bone mechanical testing, microcomputed tomography, histology, and dynamic histomorphometry. At 12 and 18 weeks of age, pOC-ERαKO mice had decreased cancellous bone mass in the proximal tibia, vertebra, and distal femur, and decreased cortical bone mass in the tibial midshaft, distal femoral cortex, and L5 vertebral cortex. Osteoblast activity was reduced in cancellous bone of the proximal tibia, but osteoclast number was unaffected. Both femora and vertebrae had decreased whole bone strength in mechanical tests to failure, indicating that ERα in osteoblasts is required for appropriate bone mass and strength accrual in female mice. This pOC-ERαKO mouse is an important animal model that could enhance our understanding of estrogen signaling in bone cells in vivo. © 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

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