Signaling crosstalk between RANKL and interferons in osteoclast differentiation

Arthritis Res. 2002;4 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):S227-32. doi: 10.1186/ar581. Epub 2002 May 9.


Regulation of osteoclast differentiation is an aspect central to the understanding of the pathogenesis and the treatment of bone diseases such as autoimmune arthritis and osteoporosis. In fact, excessive signaling by RANKL (receptor activator of nuclear factor kappaB ligand), a member of the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family essential for osteoclastogenesis, may contribute to such pathological conditions. Here we summarize our current work on the negative regulation of osteoclastogenesis by unique signaling crosstalk between RANKL and interferons (IFNs). First, activated T cells maintain bone homeostasis by counterbalancing the action of RANKL through production of IFN-gamma. This cytokine induces rapid degradation of the RANK (receptor activator of nuclear factor kappaB) adapter protein TRAF6 (TNF-receptor-associated factor 6), resulting in strong inhibition of the RANKL-induced activation of NF-kappaB and JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase). Second, RANKL induces the IFN-beta gene but not IFN-alpha genes, in osteoclast precursor cells, and that IFN-beta strongly inhibits the osteoclast differentiation by interfering with the RANKL-induced expression of c-Fos. The series of in vivo experiments revealed that these two distinct IFN-mediated regulatory mechanisms are both important to maintain homeostasis of bone resorption. Collectively, these studies revealed novel aspects of the two types of IFN, beyond their original roles in the immune response, and may offer a molecular basis for the treatment of bone diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis / metabolism
  • Arthritis / pathology
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Interferons / metabolism*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Osteoclasts / cytology*
  • Osteoclasts / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • RANK Ligand
  • Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor-kappa B
  • Receptor Cross-Talk / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • RANK Ligand
  • Receptor Activator of Nuclear Factor-kappa B
  • TNFRSF11A protein, human
  • TNFSF11 protein, human
  • Interferons