Osteoclast Apoptosis: The Role of Fas in Vivo and in Vitro

Xiaojun Wu, Margaret A. McKenna, X. U. Feng, Tim R. Nagy, Jay M. McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Both the number and the activity of osteoclasts are critical for maintaining normal bone turnover. The number is determined by rates of cell differentiation and death. Fas-mediated apoptosis is a dominant mechanism for apoptosis. Here, we show the presence of the Fas receptor on mouse, human, avian, and cultured RAW264.7 (murine) derived osteoclasts and the up-regulation of its expression during mouse osteoclast differentiation. Additionally, Fas is a fully functional death receptor in osteoclasts, and its signaling pathway is consistent with classical Fas signaling in other cell systems, involving mitochondrial release of cytochrome c and activation of caspases 3 and 9. This demonstration of Fas-mediated apoptosis in mature osteoclasts provides a new and potent mechanism for the regulation of osteoclast life span. The in vivo significance of Fas-mediated apoptosis in bone (osteoclasts) was demonstrated in aged Lpr and Gld mice, which have a dysfunctional immune system. Lpr mice, which have a defect in the Fas gene, have decreased bone mineral density, bone volume, trabecular thickness, and increased osteoclast number. Gld mice, which have a Fas ligand mutation, have a slight yet insignificant decrease in bone mineral density, but a highly significant increase in osteoclast number. Taken together, these data demonstrate that the Fas/Fas ligand system is important in the regulation of bone turnover and may represent a critical link between the immune system and bone remodeling in development and in various diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5545-5555
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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