Regulation of bone mass and bone turnover by neuronal nitric oxide synthase

Robert J van't Hof, Jeny Macphee, Helene Libouban, Miep H Helfrich, Stuart H Ralston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Nitric oxide (NO) is produced by NO synthase (NOS) and plays an important role in the regulation of bone cell function. The endothelial NOS isoform is essential for normal osteoblast function, whereas the inducible NOS isoform acts as a mediator of cytokine effects in bone. The role of the neuronal isoform of NOS (nNOS) in bone has been studied little thus far. Therefore, we investigated the role of nNOS in bone metabolism by studying mice with targeted inactivation of the nNOS gene. Bone mineral density (BMD) was significantly higher in nNOS knockout (KO) mice compared with wild-type controls, particularly the trabecular BMD (P <0.01). The difference in BMD between nNOS KO and control mice was confirmed by histomorphometric analysis, which showed a 67% increase in trabecular bone volume in nNOS KO mice when compared with controls (P <0.001). This was accompanied by reduced bone remodeling, with a significant reduction in osteoblast numbers and bone formation surfaces and a reduction in osteoclast numbers and bone resorption surfaces. Osteoblasts from nNOS KO mice, however, showed increased levels of alkaline phosphatase and no defects in proliferation or bone nodule formation in vitro, whereas osteoclastogenesis was increased in nNOS KO bone marrow cultures. These studies indicate that nNOS plays a hitherto unrecognized but important physiological role as a stimulator of bone turnover. The low level of nNOS expression in bone and the in vitro behavior of nNOS KO bone cells indicate that these actions are indirect and possibly mediated by a neurogenic relay.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5068-74
Number of pages7
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Animals
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Bone and Bones
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I
  • Osteoblasts


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