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Estrogen receptor alpha signaling in extrahypothalamic neurons during late puberty decreases bone size and strength in female but not in male mice

Journal article
Authors N. R. Kim
F. Jardi
R. Khalil
L. Antonio
D. Schollaert
L. Deboel
G. H. van Lenthe
B. Decallonne
G. Carmeliet
J. A. Gustafsson
F. Claessens
Claes Ohlsson
Marie Lagerquist
V. Dubois
D. Vanderschueren
Published in Faseb Journal
Volume 34
Issue 5
Pages 7118-7126
ISSN 0892-6638
Publication year 2020
Published at Centre for Bone and Arthritis Research
Pages 7118-7126
Language en
Keywords GH, IGF-1, neuroendocrine bone axis, puberty, sex steroids, skeletal, sexual dimorphism, growth-hormone-secretion, sexual-dimorphism, er-alpha, androgens, gene, beta, hypothalamus, inactivation, innervation, deficiency, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine - Other, Topics, Cell Biology
Subject categories Cell biology


Sexually dimorphic bone structure emerges largely during puberty. Sex steroids are critical for peak bone mass acquisition in both genders. In particular, the biphasic effects of estrogens mediate the skeletal sexual dimorphism. However, so far the stimulatory vs inhibitory actions of estrogens on bone mass are not fully explained by direct effects on bone cells. Recently, it has become evident that there is possible neuroendocrine action of estrogen receptor alpha (ER alpha) on the skeleton. Based on these considerations, we hypothesized that neuronal ER alpha-signaling may contribute to the skeletal growth during puberty. Here, we generated mice with tamoxifen-inducible Thy1-Cre mediated ER alpha inactivation during late puberty specifically in extrahypothalamic neurons (N-ER alpha KO). Inactivation of neuronal ER alpha did not alter the body weight in males, whereas N-ER alpha KO females exhibited a higher body weight and increased body and bone length compared to their control littermates at 16 weeks of age. Ex vivo microCT analysis showed increased radial bone expansion of the midshaft femur in female N-ER alpha KO along with higher serum levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 as well as IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-3. Furthermore, the 3-point bending test revealed increased bone strength in female N-ER alpha KO. In contrast, inactivation of neuronal ER alpha had no major effect on bone growth in males. In conclusion, we demonstrate that central ER alpha-signaling limits longitudinal bone growth and radial bone expansion specifically in females potentially by interacting with the GH/IGF-1 axis.

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