Skeletal Effects of Inducible ERα Deletion in Osteocytes in Adult Mice

Madison L. Doolittle, Dominik Saul, Japneet Kaur, Jennifer L. Rowsey, Brittany Eckhardt, Stephanie Vos, Sarah Grain, Kveta Kroupova, Ming Ruan, Megan Weivoda, Merry Jo Oursler, Joshua N. Farr, David G. Monroe, Sundeep Khosla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Estrogen is known to regulate bone metabolism in both women and men, but substantial gaps remain in our knowledge of estrogen and estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) regulation of adult bone metabolism. Studies using global ERα-knockout mice were confounded by high circulating sex-steroid levels, and osteocyte/osteoblast-specific ERα deletion may be confounded by ERα effects on growth versus the adult skeleton. Thus, we developed mice expressing the tamoxifen-inducible CreERT2 in osteocytes using the 8-kilobase (kb) Dmp1 promoter (Dmp1CreERT2). These mice were crossed with ERαfl//fl mice to create ERαΔOcy mice, permitting inducible osteocyte-specific ERα deletion in adulthood. After intermittent tamoxifen treatment of adult 4-month-old mice for 1 month, female, but not male, ERαΔOcy mice exhibited reduced spine bone volume fraction (BV/TV (−20.1%, p = 0.004) accompanied by decreased trabecular bone formation rate (−18.9%, p = 0.0496) and serum P1NP levels (−38.9%, p = 0.014). Periosteal (+65.6%, p = 0.004) and endocortical (+64.1%, p = 0.003) expansion were higher in ERαΔOcy mice compared to control (Dmp1CreERT2) mice at the tibial diaphysis, reflecting the known effects of estrogen to inhibit periosteal apposition and promote endocortical formation. Increases in Sost (2.1-fold, p = 0.001) messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were observed in trabecular bone at the spine in ERαΔOcy mice, consistent with previous reports that estrogen deficiency is associated with increased circulating sclerostin as well as bone SOST mRNA levels in humans. Further, the biological consequences of increased Sost expression were reflected in significant overall downregulation in panels of osteoblast and Wnt target genes in osteocyte-enriched bones from ERαΔOcy mice. These findings thus establish that osteocytic ERα is critical for estrogen action in female, but not male, adult bone metabolism. Moreover, the reduction in bone formation accompanied by increased Sost, decreased osteoblast, and decreased Wnt target gene expression in ERαΔOcy mice provides a direct link in vivo between ERα and Wnt signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
StatePublished - Sep 2022



ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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