Relation of age, gender, and bone mass to circulating sclerostin levels in women and men



Sclerostin is a potent inhibitor of Wnt signaling and bone formation. However, there is currently no information on the relation of circulating sclerostin levels to age, gender, or bone mass in humans. Thus we measured serum sclerostin levels in a population-based sample of 362 women [123 premenopausal, 152 postmenopausal not on estrogen treatment (ET), and 87 postmenopausal on ET] and 318 men, aged 21 to 97 years. Sclerostin levels (mean ± SEM) were significantly higher in men than women (33.3 ± 1.0 pmol/L versus 23.7 ± 0.6 pmol/L, p < .001). In pre- and postmenopausal women not on ET combined (n = 275) as well as in men, sclerostin levels were positively associated with age (r = 0.52 and r = 0.64, respectively, p < .001 for both). Over life, serum sclerostin levels increased by 2.4- and 4.6-fold in the women and men, respectively. Moreover, for a given total-body bone mineral content, elderly subjects (age ≥ 60 years) had higher serum sclerostin levels than younger subjects (ages 20 to 39 years). Our data thus demonstrate that (1) men have higher serum sclerostin levels than women, (2) serum sclerostin levels increase markedly with age, and (3) compared with younger subjects, elderly individuals have higher serum sclerostin levels for a given amount of bone mass. Further studies are needed to define the cause of the age-related increase in serum sclerostin levels in humans as well as the potential role of this increase in mediating the known age-related impairment in bone formation. © 2011 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.