Osteocyte lacuna population densities in sheep, elk and horse calcanei

Cells Tissues Organs. 2005;181(1):23-37. doi: 10.1159/000089966.


Osteocytes, the most prevalent cell type in bone, appear to communicate via gap junctions. In limb-bone diaphyses, it has been hypothesized that these cellular networks have the capacity to monitor habitual strains, which can differ significantly between cortical locations of the same bone. Regional differences in microdamage associated with prevalent/predominant strain mode (tension, compression, or shear) and/or magnitude may represent an important "variable" detected by this network. This hypothesis was indirectly addressed by examining bones subjected to habitual bending for correlations of osteocyte lacuna population densities (n/mm(2) bone area, Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar) with locations experiencing high and low strain, and/or prevalent/predominant tension, compression, and shear. We examined dorsal ("compression"), plantar ("tension"), and medial/lateral ("shear" or neutral axis) cortices of mid-diaphyseal sections of calcanei of adult sheep, elk, and horses. Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar data, quantified in backscattered electron images, were also evaluated in a context of various additional structural and material variables (e.g. % ash, cortical thickness, porosity, and secondary osteon population). Results showed significant differences in dorsal versus plantar comparisons with the highest Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar in dorsal cortices of sheep and elk (p < 0.0001); but this was a statistical trend in the equine calcanei (p = 0.14). There were no consistent transcortical (pericortical to endocortical) differences, and Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar in neutral axes was not consistently different from dorsal/plantar cortices. Correlations of Ot.Lc.N/B.Ar with structural and material parameters were also poor and/or inconsistent within or between species. These results provide little or no evidence that the number of osteocyte lacunae has a functional role in mechanotransduction pathways that are typically considered in bone adaptation. Although dorsal/plantar differences may be adaptations for prevalent/predominant strain modes and/or associated microdamage, it is also plausible that they are strongly influenced by differences in the bone formation rates that produced the tissue in these locations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Calcaneus / cytology*
  • Calcaneus / metabolism
  • Calcaneus / physiology
  • Deer / anatomy & histology*
  • Deer / physiology
  • Female
  • Horses / anatomy & histology*
  • Horses / physiology
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Osteocytes / physiology*
  • Sheep / anatomy & histology*
  • Sheep / physiology