Activation of osteoblast ferroptosis via the METTL3/ASK1-p38 signaling pathway in high glucose and high fat (HGHF)-induced diabetic bone loss

FASEB J. 2022 Mar;36(3):e22147. doi: 10.1096/fj.202101610R.


Diabetes mellitus (DM) and osteoporosis are two common diseases that may develop as a cause-and-effect relationship since the incidence of osteoporotic fractures is significantly increased in DM patients. However, the pathophysiology of diabetic osteoporosis is yet to be clearly understood. Iron overload has been reported to lead to bone loss and closely related to osteoporosis. In this study, we hypothesized that high glucose and high fat (HGHF) may induce osteoblastic ferroptosis for the pathogenesis of diabetic osteoporosis and explored the possible molecular mechanisms behind. Using the diabetic rat model established by HGHF feeding with a subsequent intraperitoneal injection of a single low dose of streptozocin, we found that the serum ferritin level (a biomarker for body iron store) was significantly elevated in HGHF-fed rats and the expression of SLC7A11 and GPX4 (inhibitory marker proteins for ferroptosis) was markedly attenuated in the bone tissue of the rats with diabetic bone loss as compared to the normal rats. In an osteoblast cell model, treatment of pre-osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells with high glucose and palmitic acid (HGPA) not only suppressed osteoblast differentiation and mineralization but also triggered ferroptosis-related osteoblastic cell death. m6 A-seq revealed that m6 A methylation on ASK1 was 80.9-fold higher in HGPA-treated cells. The expression of p-ASK1 and p-p38 was also significantly elevated in the HGPA-treated cells. Knockout of METTL3 (methyltransferase-like 3), one of the major m6 A methyltransferases, in MC3T3-E1 cells not only abrogated HGPA-induced activation of ASK1-p38 signaling pathway but also attenuated the level of ferroptosis. Therefore, HGHF-induced ferroptosis in osteoblasts may be the main cause of osteoporosis in DM via activation of METTL3/ASK1-p38 signaling pathway, and inhibition of ferroptosis in osteoblasts may provide a potential therapeutic strategy for diabetic osteoporosis.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; ferroptosis; glycolipid toxicity; m6A modifications; osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Line
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Ferroptosis / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5 / metabolism*
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Osteoblasts / metabolism*
  • Osteogenesis / physiology
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*


  • Methyltransferases
  • Mettl3 protein, mouse
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase 5
  • Map3k5 protein, mouse
  • Glucose