OBJECTIVE: Galectin-3 is constitutively expressed in bone cells and was recently shown to modulate osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells and atherosclerotic calcification. However, the role of galectin-3 in bone physiology is largely undefined. To address this issue, we analyzed (1) the skeletal features of 1-, 3- and 6-month-old galectin-3 null (Lgals3-/-) and wild type (WT) mice and (2) the differentiation and function of osteoblasts and osteoclasts derived from these animals.
METHODS: Long bone phenotype, gene expression profile, and remodeling were investigated by micro-computed tomography, real time-PCR, static and dynamic histomorphometry, and assessment of biochemical markers of bone resorption and formation. Bone competence was also evaluated by biomechanical testing at 3 months. In vitro, the effects of galectin-3 deficiency on bone cell differentiation and function were investigated by assessing (a) gene expression of osteoblast markers, alkaline phosphatase activity, mineralization assay, and WNT/β-catenin signaling (of which galectin-3 is a known regulator) in osteoblasts; and (b) tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity and bone resorption activity in osteoclasts.
RESULTS: Lgals3-/- mice revealed a wide range of age-dependent alterations including lower bone formation and higher bone resorption, accelerated age-dependent trabecular bone loss (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months) and reduced bone strength (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months). These abnormalities were accompanied by a steady inflammatory state, as revealed by higher bone expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6 (p < 0.001 vs. WT at 3 months), increased content of osteal macrophages (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months), and reduced expression of markers of alternative (M2) macrophage activation. Lgals3-/- osteoblasts and osteoclasts showed impaired terminal differentiation, reduced mineralization capacity (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells) and resorption activity (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells). Mechanistically, impaired differentiation and function of Lgals3-/- osteoblasts was associated with altered WNT/β-catenin signaling (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells).
CONCLUSIONS: These data provide evidence for a contribution of galectin-3 to bone cell maturation and function, bone remodeling, and biomechanical competence, thus identifying galectin-3 as a promising therapeutic target for age-related disorders of bone remodeling.
- Biochemical Phenomena/genetics
- Bone Density/genetics
- Bone Remodeling/genetics
- Cell Differentiation/genetics
- Cells, Cultured
- Flexural Strength/physiology
- Galectin 3/genetics
- Mice, Inbred C57BL
- Mice, Knockout