Parathyroid hormone receptor signaling induces bone resorption in the adult skeleton by directly regulating the RANKL gene in osteocytes

Endocrinology. 2014 Aug;155(8):2797-809. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1046. Epub 2014 May 30.


PTH upregulates the expression of the receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (Rankl) in cells of the osteoblastic lineage, but the precise differentiation stage of the PTH target cell responsible for RANKL-mediated stimulation of bone resorption remains undefined. We report that constitutive activation of PTH receptor signaling only in osteocytes in transgenic mice (DMP1-caPTHR1) was sufficient to increase Rankl expression and bone resorption. Resorption in DMP1-caPTHR1 mice crossed with mice lacking the distal control region regulated by PTH in the Rankl gene (DCR(-/-)) was similar to DMP1-caPTHR1 mice at 1 month of age, but progressively declined to reach values undistinguishable from wild-type (WT) mice at 5 months of age. Moreover, DMP1-caPTHR1 mice exhibited low tissue material density and increased serum alkaline phosphatase activity at 5 month of age, and these indices of high remodeling were partially and totally corrected in compound DMP1-caPTHR1;DCR(-/-) male mice, and less affected in female mice. Rankl expression in bones from DMP1-caPTHR1 mice was elevated at both 1 and 5 months of age, whereas it was high, similar to DMP1-caPTHR1 mice at 1 month, but low, similar to WT levels at 5 months in compound mice. Moreover, PTH increased Rankl and decreased Sost and Opg expression in ex vivo bone organ cultures established from WT mice, but only regulated Sost and Opg expression in cultures from DCR(-/-) mice. PTH also increased RANKL expression in osteocyte-containing primary cultures of calvarial cells, in isolated murine osteocytes, and in WT but not in DCR(-/-) osteocyte-enriched bones. Thus, PTH upregulates Rankl expression in osteocytes in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo, and resorption induced by PTH receptor signaling in the adult skeleton requires direct regulation of the Rankl gene in osteocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption* / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Osteocytes / metabolism*
  • Parathyroid Hormone / metabolism*
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • RANK Ligand / genetics*
  • RANK Ligand / metabolism
  • Receptors, Parathyroid Hormone / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • RANK Ligand
  • Receptors, Parathyroid Hormone
  • Tnfsf11 protein, mouse