Polycythemia is associated with bone loss and reduced osteoblast activity in mice

Osteoporos Int. 2016 Apr;27(4):1559-1568. doi: 10.1007/s00198-015-3412-7. Epub 2015 Dec 9.


Increased fragility has been described in humans with polycythemia vera (PV). Herein, we describe an osteoporotic phenotype associated with decreased osteoblast activity in a mouse model of PV and another mouse of polycythemia and elevated circulating erythropoietin (EPO). Our results are important for patients with PV or those treated with recombinant EPO (rEPO).

Introduction: PV and other myeloproliferative syndromes have been recently associated with an increased risk for fractures. However, the presence of osteoporosis in these patients has not been well documented. EPO, a hormone primarily known to stimulate erythropoiesis, has been shown recently to regulate bone homeostasis in mice. The aim of this study was to examine the bone phenotype of a mouse model of PV and compare it to that of animals with polycythemia caused by elevated circulating EPO.

Methods: Bone mass and remodeling were evaluated by micro-computed tomography and histomorphometry. The JAK2(V617F) knock-in mouse, a model of human PV, manifests polycythemia and low circulating EPO levels. Results from this mouse were compared to wild type (wt) controls and the tg6 transgenic mouse that shows polycythemia caused by increased constitutive expression of EPO.

Results: Compared to wt, both JAK2(V617F) and tg6 mice had a decrease in trabecular bone mass. Tg6 mice showed an additional modest decrease in cortical thickness and cortical bone volume per tissue volume (P < 0.01) suggesting a more severe bone phenotype than JAK2(V617F). Decreased osteoblast numbers and bone formation along with normal osteoclast numbers and activity were found in both mice.

Conclusions: This study indicates that PV is associated with low bone mass and decreased osteoblast activity in mice. Our results support future studies of osteoporosis in affected humans. Polycythemia caused by chronically elevated circulating EPO also results in bone loss, and implications on patients treated with rEPO should be evaluated.

Keywords: Erythropoietin; JAK2V617F; Osteoblasts; Polycythemia; Tg6 mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / etiology*
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / physiopathology
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Erythropoietin / blood
  • Male
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Osteogenesis / physiology
  • Polycythemia / blood
  • Polycythemia / complications*
  • Polycythemia / physiopathology
  • Polycythemia Vera / blood
  • Polycythemia Vera / complications*
  • Polycythemia Vera / physiopathology
  • X-Ray Microtomography


  • Erythropoietin