Local mechanical stimuli regulate bone formation and resorption in mice at the tissue level

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 24;8(4):e62172. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062172. Print 2013.


Bone is able to react to changing mechanical demands by adapting its internal microstructure through bone forming and resorbing cells. This process is called bone modeling and remodeling. It is evident that changes in mechanical demands at the organ level must be interpreted at the tissue level where bone (re)modeling takes place. Although assumed for a long time, the relationship between the locations of bone formation and resorption and the local mechanical environment is still under debate. The lack of suitable imaging modalities for measuring bone formation and resorption in vivo has made it difficult to assess the mechanoregulation of bone three-dimensionally by experiment. Using in vivo micro-computed tomography and high resolution finite element analysis in living mice, we show that bone formation most likely occurs at sites of high local mechanical strain (p<0.0001) and resorption at sites of low local mechanical strain (p<0.0001). Furthermore, the probability of bone resorption decreases exponentially with increasing mechanical stimulus (R(2) = 0.99) whereas the probability of bone formation follows an exponential growth function to a maximum value (R(2) = 0.99). Moreover, resorption is more strictly controlled than formation in loaded animals, and ovariectomy increases the amount of non-targeted resorption. Our experimental assessment of mechanoregulation at the tissue level does not show any evidence of a lazy zone and suggests that around 80% of all (re)modeling can be linked to the mechanical micro-environment. These findings disclose how mechanical stimuli at the tissue level contribute to the regulation of bone adaptation at the organ level.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Bone Resorption*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteogenesis / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Weight-Bearing

Grant support

Funding from the European Union for the osteoporotic virtual physiological human project (VPHOP FP7-ICT2008-223865) is gratefully acknowledged. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.