Osteocyte morphology in human tibiae of different bone pathologies with different bone mineral density--is there a role for mechanosensing?

R.P. van Hove, P.A. Nolte, A. Vatsa, C.M. Semeins, P.L. Salmon, T.H. Smit, J. Klein-Nulend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Matrix strains due to external loading are different in bones of different pathologies with different bone mineral density (BMD), and are likely sensed by the osteocytes, the putative bone mechanosensors. The mechanosensitivity of osteocytes appears to be strongly influenced by their morphology. In this study, we explored the possibility that osteocyte morphology might play a role in various bone pathologies with different BMD. Confocal laser scanning microscopy and nano-CT were used to quantitatively determine 3D morphology and alignment of osteocytes and osteocyte lacunae in human proximal tibial bone with relatively low (osteopenic), medium (osteoarthritic), and high (osteopetrotic) BMD. Osteopenic osteocytes were relatively large and round (lengths 8.9:15.6:13.4 microm), osteopetrotic osteocytes were small and discoid shaped (lengths 5.5:11.1:10.8 microm), and osteoarthritic osteocytes were large and elongated (lengths 8.4:17.3:12.2 microm). Osteopenic osteocyte lacunae showed 3.5 fold larger volume and 2.2 fold larger surface area than osteoarthritic lacunae, whereas osteopetrotic lacunae were 1.9 fold larger and showed 1.5 fold larger surface area than osteoarthritic lacunae. Osteopetrotic osteocyte lacunae had lower alignment than osteopenic and osteoarthritic lacunae as indicated by their lower degree of anisotropy. The differences in 3D morphology of osteocytes and their lacunae in long bones of different pathologies with different BMD might reflect an adaptation to matrix strain due to different external loading conditions. Moreover, since direct mechanosensing of matrix strain likely occurs by the cell bodies, the differences in osteocyte morphology and their lacunae might indicate differences in osteocyte mechanosensitivity. The exact relationship between osteocyte morphology and bone architecture, however, is complex and deserves further study
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)321-329
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this