Yun Ma, Jeffry S. Nyman, Huan Tao, Heather H. Moss, Xiangli Yang and Florent Elefteriou
The sympathetic nervous system is a physiological regulator of bone homeostasis. Autonomic nerves are indeed present in bone, bone cells express the β2-adrenergic receptors (β2AR), and pharmacological or genetic disruption of sympathetic outflow to bone induces bone gain in rodents. These recent findings implied that conditions that affect β2AR signaling in osteoblasts and/or sympathetic drive to bone may contribute to bone diseases. In this study, we show that dexamethasone stimulates the expression of the β2AR in differentiated primary calvarial osteoblasts, as measured by an increase in Adrβ2 mRNA and β2AR protein level after short-term dexamethasone treatment. Isoproterenol-induced cAMP accumulation and the expression of the β2AR target gene Rankl were also significantly increased after dexamethasone pretreatment, indicating that dexamethasone promotes the responsiveness of differentiated osteoblasts to adrenergic stimulation. These in vitro results led to the hypothesis that glucocorticoid-induced bone loss, provoked by increased endogenous or high-dose exogenous glucocorticoids given for the treatment of inflammatory diseases, might, at least in part, be mediated by increased sensitivity of bone-forming cells to the tonic inhibitory effect of sympathetic nerves on bone formation or their stimulatory effect on bone resorption. Supporting this hypothesis, both pharmacological and genetic β2AR blockade in mice significantly reduced the bone catabolic effect of high-dose prednisolone in vivo. This study emphasizes the importance of sympathetic nerves in the regulation of bone homeostasis and indicates that this neuroskeletal signaling axis can be modulated by hormones or drugs and contribute to enhance pathological bone loss.