GIRK3 deletion facilitates kappa opioid signaling in chondrocytes, delays vascularization and promotes bone lengthening in mice

Earnest L. Taylor, Samantha R. Weaver, Ian M. Lorang, Katherine M. Arnold, Elizabeth W. Bradley, Ezequiel Marron Fernandez de Velasco, Kevin Wickman, Jennifer J. Westendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long bones are formed and repaired through the process of endochondral ossification. Activation of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling pathways is crucial for skeletal development and long bone growth. G protein-gated inwardly-rectifying K+ (GIRK) channel genes are key functional components and effectors of GPCR signaling pathways in excitable cells of the heart and brain, but their roles in non-excitable cells that directly contribute to endochondral bone formation have not been studied. In this study, we analyzed skeletal phenotypes of Girk2−/−, Girk3−/− and Girk2/3−/− mice. Bones from 12-week-old Girk2−/− mice were normal in length, but femurs and tibiae from Girk3−/− and Girk2/3−/− mice were longer than age-matched controls at 12-weeks-old. Epiphyseal chondrocytes from 5-day-old Girk3−/− mice expressed higher levels of genes involved in collagen chain trimerization and collagen fibril assembly, lower levels of genes encoding VEGF receptors, and produced larger micromasses than wildtype chondrocytes in vitro. Girk3−/− chondrocytes were also more responsive to the kappa opioid receptor (KOR) ligand dynorphin, as evidenced by greater pCREB expression, greater cAMP and GAG production, and upregulation of Col2a1 and Sox9 transcripts. Imaging studies showed that Kdr (Vegfr2) and endomucin expression was dramatically reduced in bones from young Girk3−/− mice, supporting a role for delayed vasculogenesis and extended postnatal endochondral bone growth. Together these data indicate that GIRK3 controls several processes involved in bone lengthening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116391
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Cartilage
  • Development
  • G protein
  • GPCR
  • K channel
  • Kappa opioid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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