Osteocyte-directed bone demineralization along canaliculi

Nobuhito Nango, Shogo Kubota, Tomoka Hasegawa, Wataru Yashiro, Atsushi Momose, Koichi Matsuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


The mammalian skeleton stores calcium and phosphate ions in bone matrix. Osteocytes in osteocyte lacunae extend numerous dendrites into canaliculi less than a micron in diameter and which are distributed throughout bone matrix. Although osteoclasts are the primary bone-resorbing cells, osteocytes also reportedly dissolve hydroxyapatite at peri-lacunar bone matrix. However, robust three-dimensional evidence for peri-canalicular bone mineral dissolution has been lacking. Here we applied a previously reported Talbot-defocus multiscan tomography method for synchrotron X-ray microscopy and analyzed the degree of bone mineralization in mouse cortical bone around the lacuno-canalicular network, which is connected both to blood vessels and the peri- and endosteum. We detected cylindrical low mineral density regions spreading around canaliculi derived from a subset of osteocytes. Transmission electron microscopy revealed both intact and demineralized bone matrix around the canaliculus. Peri-canalicular low mineral density regions were also observed in osteopetrotic mice lacking osteoclasts, indicating that osteoclasts are dispensable for peri-canalicular demineralization. These data suggest demineralization can occur from within bone through the canalicular system, and that peri-canalicular demineralization occurs not uniformly but directed by individual osteocytes. Blockade of peri-canalicular demineralization may be a therapeutic strategy to increase bone mass and quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1


  • Demineralization/remineralization
  • Mineral metabolism
  • Osteocyte canaliculus
  • Osteocytic osteolysis
  • Synchrotron radiation
  • Talbot-defocus multiscan tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology


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