Omics analysis of human bone to identify genes and molecular networks regulating skeletal remodeling in health and disease

Bone. 2017 Aug:101:88-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2017.04.012. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


The skeleton is a metabolically active organ throughout life where specific bone cell activity and paracrine/endocrine factors regulate its morphogenesis and remodeling. In recent years, an increasing number of reports have used multi-omics technologies to characterize subsets of bone biological molecular networks. The skeleton is affected by primary and secondary disease, lifestyle and many drugs. Therefore, to obtain relevant and reliable data from well characterized patient and control cohorts are vital. Here we provide a brief overview of omics studies performed on human bone, of which our own studies performed on trans-iliacal bone biopsies from postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (OP) and healthy controls are among the first and largest. Most other studies have been performed on smaller groups of patients, undergoing hip replacement for osteoarthritis (OA) or fracture, and without healthy controls. The major findings emerging from the combined studies are: 1. Unstressed and stressed bone show profoundly different gene expression reflecting differences in bone turnover and remodeling and 2. Omics analyses comparing healthy/OP and control/OA cohorts reveal characteristic changes in transcriptomics, epigenomics (DNA methylation), proteomics and metabolomics. These studies, together with genome-wide association studies, in vitro observations and transgenic animal models have identified a number of genes and gene products that act via Wnt and other signaling systems and are highly associated to bone density and fracture. Future challenge is to understand the functional interactions between bone-related molecular networks and their significance in OP and OA pathogenesis, and also how the genomic architecture is affected in health and disease.

Keywords: Bone biopsy; Epigenetics; Omics; Osteoarthritis; Osteoporosis; Review; Transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / metabolism*
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Epigenomics / methods
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / genetics
  • Osteoarthritis / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / genetics
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics
  • Transcriptome / physiology