Connexin43 (Cx43) is the main gap junction protein expressed in bone forming cells, where it modulates peak bone mass acquisition and cortical modeling. Genetic ablation of the Cx43 gene (Gja1) results in cortical expansion with accentuated periosteal bone formation associated with decreased expression of the Wnt inhibitor sclerostin.
The coupling of osteoblasts and osteocytes by connexin43 (Cx43) gap junctions permits the sharing of second messengers that coordinate bone cell function and cortical bone acquisition. However, details of how Cx43 converts shared second messengers into signals that converge onto essential osteogenic processes are incomplete. Here, we use in vitro and in vivo methods to show that Cx43 and Runx2 functionally interact to regulate osteoblast gene expression and proliferation, ultimately affecting cortical bone properties.
In skeletal tissue, loss or mutation of the gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43, also known as GJA1) in cells of the osteoblast lineage leads to a profound cortical bone phenotype and defective tissue remodeling. There is mounting evidence in bone cells that the C-terminus (CT) of Cx43 is a docking platform for signaling effectors and is required for efficient downstream signaling.
Marcus P. Watkins, Jin Yi Norris, Susan K. Grimston, Xiaown Zhang, Roger J. Phipps, Frank H. Ebetino, Roberto Civitelli
The gap junction protein, connexin43 (Cx43) controls both bone formation and osteoclastogenesis via osteoblasts and/or osteocytes. Cx43 has also been proposed to mediate an anti-apoptotic effect of bisphosphonates, potent inhibitors of bone resorption. We studied whether bisphosphonates are effective in protecting mice with a conditional Cx43 gene deletion in osteoblasts and osteocytes (cKO) from the consequences of ovariectomy on bone mass and strength. Ovariectomy resulted in rapid loss of trabecular bone followed by a slight recovery in wild type (WT) mice, and a similar degree of trabecular bone loss, albeit slightly delayed, occurred in cKO mice. Treatment with either risedronate (20 μg/kg) or alendronate (40 μg/kg) prevented ovariectomy-induced bone loss in both genotypes. In basal conditions, bones of cKO mice have larger marrow area, higher endocortical osteoclast number, and lower cortical thickness and strength relative to WT. Ovariectomy increased endocortical osteoclast number in WT but not in cKO mice. Both bisphosphonates prevented these increases in WT mice, and normalized endocortical osteoclast number, cortical thickness and bone strength in cKO mice. Thus, lack of osteoblast/osteocyte Cx43 does not alter bisphosphonate action on bone mass and strength in estrogen deficiency. These results support the notion that one of the main functions of Cx43 in cortical bone is to restrain osteoblast and/or osteocytes from inducing osteoclastogenesis at the endocortical surface.