• calcium-sensing receptor;
  • osteoblasts;
  • anabolic;
  • bone;
  • osteoporosis


Defining the molecular target for strontium in osteoblasts is important for understanding the anabolic effects of this cation on bone. The current studies demonstrate that a G-protein-mediated response to strontium persists in osteoblasts that lack CASR, suggesting a predominant role for a novel cation-sensing receptor in mediating the osseous response to strontium.

Introduction: Strontium has anabolic effects on bone and is currently being developed for the treatment of osteoporosis. The molecular target for strontium in osteoblasts has not been determined, but the existence of CASR, a G-protein-coupled receptor calcium-sensing receptor, raises the possibility that strontium actions on bone are mediated through this or a related receptor.

Materials and Methods: We used activation of a transfected serum response element (SRE)-luciferase reporter in HEK-293 cells to determine if CASR is activated by strontium. In addition, we examined strontium-mediated responses in MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts and osteoblasts derived from wild-type and CASR null mice to determine if other cation-sensing mechanisms are present in osteoblasts.

Results and Conclusions: We found that strontium stimulated SRE-luc activity in HEK-293 cells transfected with full-length CASR but not in cells expressing the alternatively spliced CASR construct lacking exon 5. In contrast, we found that MC3T3-E1 osteoblasts that lack CASR as well as osteoblasts derived from CASR null mice respond to millimolar concentrations of strontium. The response to strontium in osteoblasts was nonadditive to a panel of extracellular cations, including aluminum, gadolinium, and calcium, suggesting a common mechanism of action. In contrast, neither the CASR agonist magnesium nor the calcimimetic NPS-R568 activated SRE activity in osteoblasts, but the response to these agonists was imparted by transfection of CASR into these osteoblasts, consistent with the presence of distinct cation-sensing mechanisms. Co-expression of the dominant negative Gαq(305–359) minigene also inhibited cation-stimulated SRE activity in osteoblasts lacking known CASR. These findings are consistent with strontium activation of a novel Gαq-coupled extracellular cation-sensing receptor in osteoblasts with distinct cation specificity.