Journal of Endocrinology

 Role of osteocytes in mediating bone mineralization during hyperhomocysteinemia

Hyperhomocysteinemia (HHCY) is a risk factor for osteoporosis but whether HHCY affects bone mineralization or not is still ambiguous. Herein we evaluated whether homocysteine affects tissue mineral density (TMD) of cortical bone and if so the role of osteocytes. CD1 mice administered with homocysteine (5 mg/100 g body weight, i.p.) for 7, 15 and 30 days showed temporal changes in TMD and osteocyte lacunar density in femoral cortices. Short-term administration of homocysteine (day 7) increased osteocyte lacunar density and reduced TMD evidenced by microCT50 while prolonged administration of homocysteine (day 30) reinstated TMD and lacunar density to baseline values. Major differences were decreased number of nucleated osteocyte lacunae, increased number of empty lacunae and cleaved caspase 3-positive osteocyte lacunae in day 30 HHCY bone evidenced by H&E staining and immunohistochemistry. Other differences were induction in mineralization genes like Dmp1, Phex and Sost in cortical bone by real-time PCR and increased number of Dmp1- and Sost-positive osteocyte lacunae in day 30 HHCY bone evidenced by immunohistochemistry. Both HHCY day 7 and day 30 samples showed reduced Young’s modulus demonstrating that biomechanical property of bone was lost during early HHCY itself, which did not improve with recovery of TMD. Our results thus demonstrate occurrence of two phases in cortical bone upon HHCY: the early phase that involved loss of TMD and increase in osteocyte numbers and a late phase that involved osteocyte reprogramming, apoptosis and mineralization, which reinstated TMD but compromised biomechanical property. To conclude, osteocytes have a potential role in arbitrating bone pathogenesis during HHCY.