Estrogen depletion on In vivo osteocyte calcium signaling responses to mechanical loading

Karl J. Lewis, Pamela Cabahug-Zuckerman, James F. Boorman-Padgett, Jelena Basta-Pljakic, Joyce Louie, Samuel Stephen, David C. Spray, Mia M. Thi, Zeynep Seref-Ferlengez, Robert J. Majeska, Sheldon Weinbaum, Mitchell B. Schaffler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Microstructural adaptation of bone in response to mechanical stimuli is diminished with estrogen deprivation. Here we tested in vivo whether ovariectomy (OVX) alters the acute response of osteocytes, the principal mechanosensory cells of bone, to mechanical loading in mice. We also used super resolution microscopy (Structured Illumination microscopy or SIM) in conjunction with immunohistochemistry to assess changes in the number and organization of “osteocyte mechanosomes” - complexes of Panx1 channels, P2X7 receptors and CaV3 voltage-gated Ca2+ channels clustered around αvβ3 integrin foci on osteocyte processes. Third metatarsals bones of mice expressing an osteocyte-targeted genetically encoded Ca2+ indicator (DMP1-GCaMP3) were cyclically loaded in vivo to strains from 250 to 3000 με and osteocyte intracellular Ca2+ signaling responses were assessed in mid-diaphyses using multiphoton microscopy. The number of Ca2+ signaling osteocytes in control mice increase monotonically with applied strain magnitude for the physiological range of strains. The relationship between the number of Ca2+ signaling osteocytes and loading was unchanged at 2 days post-OVX. However, it was altered markedly at 28 days post-OVX. At loads up to 1000 με, there was a dramatic reduction in number of responding (i.e. Ca2+ signaling) osteocytes; however, at higher strains the numbers of Ca2+ signaling osteocytes were similar to control mice. OVX significantly altered the abundance, make-up and organization of osteocyte mechanosome complexes on dendritic processes. Numbers of αvβ3 foci also staining with either Panx 1, P2X7R or CaV3 declined by nearly half after OVX, pointing to a loss of osteocyte mechanosomes on the dendritic processes with estrogen depletion. At the same time, the areas of the remaining foci that stained for αvβ3 and channel proteins increased significantly, a redistribution of mechanosome components suggesting a potential compensatory response. These results demonstrate that the deleterious effects of estrogen depletion on skeletal mechanical adaptation appear at the level of mechanosensation; osteocytes lose the ability to sense small (physiological) mechanical stimuli. This decline may result at least partly from changes in the structure and organization of osteocyte mechanosomes, which contribute to the distinctive sensitivity of osteocytes (particularly their dendritic processes) to mechanical stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116072
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Ca signaling
  • Estrogen loss
  • In vivo
  • Mechanosensing
  • Osteocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Histology


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