Kukiat Tudpor, Bram C.J. van der Eerden, Prapaporn Jongwattanapisan, Joris J.T.H. Roelofs, Johannes P.T.M. van Leeuwen, René J.M. Bindels, Joost G.J. Hoenderop
Thrombin and its receptor (TR) are, respectively, expressed in osteoclasts and osteoblasts. However, their physiological roles on bone metabolism have not been fully elucidated. Here we investigated the bone microarchitecture by micro-computed tomography (μCT) and demonstrated increased trabecular and cortical bone mass in femurs of TR KO mice compared to WT littermates. Trabecular thickness and connectivity were significantly enhanced. The physiological role of TR on both inorganic and organic phases of bone is illustrated by a significant increase in BMD and a decrease in urinary deoxypyridinoline (DPD) crosslink concentration in TR KO mice. Moreover, TR KO cortical bone expanded and had a higher polar moment of inertia (J), implying stronger bone. Bone histomorphometry illustrated unaltered osteoblast and osteoclast number and surface in femoral metaphyses, indicating that thrombin/TR regulates osteoblasts and osteoclasts at functional levels. Serum analysis showed a decrease in RANKL and an increase in osteoprotegerin (OPG) levels and reflected a reduced RANKL/OPG ratio in the TR KO group. In vitro experiments using MC3T3 pre-osteoblasts demonstrated a TR-dependent stimulatory effect of thrombin on the RANKL/OPG ratio. This effect was blocked by TR antagonist and p42/p44-ERK inhibitor. In addition, thrombin also intensified p42/p44-ERK expression and phosphorylation. In conclusion, the thrombin/TR system maintains normal bone remodeling by activating RANKL and limiting OPG synthesis by osteoblasts through the p42/44-ERK signaling pathway. Consequently, TR deficiency inhibits osteoclastogenesis, resulting in a high bone mass phenotype.