The role of osteocalcin in human glucose metabolism: marker or mediator?

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2013 Jan;9(1):43-55. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2012.201. Epub 2012 Nov 13.


Increasing evidence supports an association between the skeleton and energy metabolism. These interactions are mediated by a variety of hormones, cytokines and nutrients. Here, the evidence for a role of osteocalcin in the regulation of glucose metabolism in humans is reviewed. Osteocalcin is a bone matrix protein that regulates hydroxyapatite size and shape through its vitamin-K-dependent, γ-carboxylated form. The concentration of osteocalcin in the circulation is a measure of bone formation. The undercarboxylated form of osteocalcin is active in glucose metabolism in mice. Total serum osteocalcin concentrations in humans are inversely associated with measures of glucose metabolism; however, human data are inconclusive with regard to the role of uncarboxylated osteocalcin in glucose metabolism because most studies do not account for the influence of vitamin K on the proportion of undercarboxylated osteocalcin or differentiate between the total and uncarboxylated forms of osteocalcin. Furthermore, most human studies do not concomitantly measure other bone turnover markers to isolate the role of osteocalcin as a measure of bone formation from its effect on glucose metabolism. Carefully designed studies are required to define the role of osteocalcin and its carboxylated or undercarboxylated forms in the regulation of glucose metabolism in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Osteocalcin / metabolism*


  • Osteocalcin
  • Glucose