Mechanisms balancing skeletal matrix synthesis and degradation

Harry C. Blair, Mone Zaidi, Paul H. Schlesinger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Bone is regulated by evolutionarily conserved signals that balance continuous differentiation of bone matrix-producing cells against apoptosis and matrix removal. This is continued from embryogenesis, where the skeleton differentiates as a solid mass and is shaped into separate bones by cell death and proteolysis. The two major tissues of the skeleton are avascular cartilage, with an extracellular matrix based on type II collagen and hydrophilic proteoglycans, and bone, a stronger and lighter material based on oriented type I collagen and hydroxyapatite. Both differentiate from the same mesenchymal stem cells. This differentiation is regulated by a family of related signals centred on bone morphogenic proteins. Fibroblast growth factors, Indian hedgehog and parathyroid hormone-related protein are important in determining the type of matrix and the relation of skeletal and non-skeletal structures. Removal of mineralized matrix involves apoptosis of matrix cells and differentiation of acid-secreting cells (osteoclasts) from macrophage precursors. Key regulators of matrix removal are signals in the tumour-necrosis-factor family. Osteoclasts dissolve bone by isolating a region of the matrix and secreting HCl and proteinases at that site. Successive cycles of removal and replacement allow growth, repair and remodelling. The signals for bone turnover are predominantly cell-membrane-associated, allowing very specific spatial regulation. In addition to its support function, bone is a reservoir of Ca2+, PO43- and OH-. Secondary modulation of mineral secretion and bone degradation are mediated by humoral signals, including parathyroid hormone and vitamin D, as well as the cytokines that also regulate the underlying cell differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-341
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Macrophage
  • Mesenchymal stem cell
  • Osteoblast
  • Osteoclast


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms balancing skeletal matrix synthesis and degradation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this