Bone remodeling is a highly coordinated process involving bone formation and resorption, and imbalance of this process results in osteoporosis. It has long been recognized that long-term heparin therapy often causes osteoporosis, suggesting that heparan sulfate (HS), the physiological counterpart of heparin, is somehow involved in bone mass regulation. The role of endogenous HS in adult bone, however, remains unclear. To determine the role of HS in bone homeostasis, we conditionally ablated Ext1, which encodes an essential glycosyltransferase for HS biosynthesis, in osteoblasts. Resultant conditional mutant mice developed severe osteopenia. Surprisingly, this phenotype is not due to impairment in bone formation but to enhancement of bone resorption. We show that osteoprotegerin (OPG), which is known as a soluble decoy receptor for RANKL, needs to be associated with the osteoblast surface in order to efficiently inhibit RANKL/RANK signaling and that HS serves as a cell surface binding partner for OPG in this context. We also show that bone mineral density is reduced in patients with multiple hereditary exostoses, a genetic bone disorder caused by heterozygous mutations of Ext1, suggesting that the mechanism revealed in this study may be relevant to low bone mass conditions in humans.
Satoshi Nozawa, Toshihiro Inubushi, Fumitoshi Irie, Iori Takigami, Kazu Matsumoto, Katsuji Shimizu, Haruhiko Akiyama, Yu Yamaguchi