Iliac cancellous osteocyte density decreases with age in deep bone but not in superficial bone, most likely because of remodeling. It has been suggested that osteocytes can inhibit bone remodeling. Accordingly, we examined the relationship between osteocyte density and bone formation rate in 92 healthy women. In superficial bone (<25 microm from the surface), we found a weak but significant (p < 0.03) inverse correlation between BFR/BS and Ot. N/B.Ar that was unaffected by menopause and independent of age. A weaker positive relationship with empty lacunar density improved significance. The data appear to suggest a negative feedback loop, but osteocytes explain only 10% of the variance in BFR/BS, and 97% of the variance in osteocyte density is explained by total lacunar density. This measure of initial osteocyte density during bone formation has a high coefficient of variation (20%) indicating large individual differences. We conclude that: (1) our data support the proposal that osteocytes can inhibit bone remodeling; (2) osteocyte density in superficial bone depends mainly on initial osteocyte density during bone formation and is maintained but not regulated by bone remodeling; and (3) the inverse relationship between BFR/BS and osteocyte density may reflect the homeostatic need to maintain calcium exchangeability in the lining cell-osteocyte syncytium.
Copyright 2002 by Elsevier Science Inc.