Purpose: Osteoprotegerin (OPG) affects bone metabolism by intercepting the RANK-RANKL interaction which prevents osteoclastic differentiation and consequently reduces bone resorption. Different bone phenotypes of mice overexpressing OPG and of mice with knockdown of receptor activator of NF-kappaB (RANK) or RANK-ligand (RANKL) suggest that the mechanism of action of the OPG-RANKL-RANK system in regulating bone remodeling is not completely understood. Furthermore, OPG increases bone mass and density independently from reduced osteoclastogenesis which is consistent with the possibility that OPG may directly affect bone metabolism beyond its known role as decoy receptor for RANKL.
Methods: We treated primary human osteoblastic cells with OPG and inhibitory anti-RANKL antibodies and measured cellular ALP activity, in vitro mineralization, vitronectin receptor protein expression and ERK phosphorylation. We also analyzed the mRNA co-expression of ALP and OPG ex vivo in bone biopsies from acute and old stable vertebral fractures.
Results: OPG directly increased ALP activity and in vitro mineralization of HOC, enhanced expression of the vitronectin receptor thereby increasing adherence of HOC to vitronectin and stimulated ERK phosphorylation. All OPG-mediated effects could be prevented by RANKL antibodies or RANKL-siRNA transfection and MAPK inhibitor PD98059 reduced the stimulatory effect of OPG on integrin alphav expression. In acutely fractured vertebrae OPG and ALP mRNA expression was significantly increased compared to stable vertebral fractures. In conclusion, OPG exerts direct osteoanabolic effects on HOC metabolism via RANKL in addition to its well described role as decoy receptor for RANKL.