The canonical Wnt signaling pathway is critical for skeletal development and maintenance, but the precise roles of the individual Wnt co-receptors, Lrp5 and Lrp6, that enable Wnt signals to be transmitted in osteoblasts remain controversial. In these studies, we used Cre-loxP recombination, in which Cre-expression is driven by the human osteocalcin promoter, to determine the individual contributions of Lrp5 and Lrp6 in postnatal bone acquisition and osteoblast function. Mice selectively lacking either Lrp5 or Lrp6 in mature osteoblasts were born at the expected Mendelian frequency but demonstrated significant reductions in whole-body bone mineral density. Bone architecture measured by microCT revealed that Lrp6 mutant mice failed to accumulate normal amounts of trabecular bone. By contrast, Lrp5 mutants had normal trabecular bone volume at 8 weeks of age, but with age, these mice also exhibited trabecular bone loss. Both mutants also exhibited significant alterations in cortical bone structure. In vitro differentiation was impaired in both Lrp5 and Lrp6 null osteoblasts as indexed by alkaline phosphatase and Alizarin red staining, but the defect was more pronounced in Lrp6 mutant cells. Mice lacking both Wnt co-receptors developed severe osteopenia similar to that observed previously in mice lacking β-catenin in osteoblasts. Likewise, calvarial cells doubly deficient for Lrp5 and Lrp6 failed to form osteoblasts when cultured in osteogenic media, but instead attained a chondrocyte-like phenotype. These results indicate that expression of both Lrp5 and Lrp6 are required within mature osteoblasts for normal postnatal bone development.
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