Ovariectomy increases RANKL protein expression in bone marrow adipocytes of C3H/HeJ mice

Kerensa M. Beekman, Marleen Zwaagstra, Annegreet G. Veldhuis-Vlug, Huib W. Van Essen, Martin Den Heijer, Mario Maas, Greet Kerckhofs, Tatjana N. Parac-Vogt, Peter H. Bisschop, Nathalie Bravenboer

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Estrogen deficiency induces bone loss by increasing bone resorption, in part through upregulation of receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL). RANKL is secreted by osteoblasts and osteocytes, but more recently bone marrow (pre)adipocytes have also been shown to express RANKL. Estrogen deficiency increases bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT). The aim of this study was to determine the effect of ovariectomy (OVX) on RANKL protein expression by bone marrow adipocytes in C3H/HeJ mice. Fourteen-week-old female C3H/HeJ mice (n = 20) were randomized to sham surgery (Sham) or OVX. After 4 wk animals were euthanized. BMAT volume fraction (BMAT volume/marrow volume) was quantified by polyoxometalate-based contrast-enhanced nano-computed tomography. The percentage of RANKL-positive bone marrow adipocytes (RANKL-positive bone marrow adipocytes/total adipocytes) and the percentage of RANKL-positive osteoblasts covering the bone surface (bone surface covered in RANKL-positive osteoblasts/total bone surface) were quantified in the distal metaphysis of immunohistochemically stained sections of the left femur. The effects of OVX were analyzed by Student's t test or Mann-Whitney U test. RANKL was detected in osteoblasts, osteocytes, and bone marrow adipocytes. OVX significantly increased mean percentage of RANKL-positive bone marrow adipocytes [mean (SD): Sham 42 (18)%; OVX 64 (12)%; P = 0.029] as well as BMAT volume/marrow volume [median (interquartile range): Sham 1.4 (4.9)%; OVX 7.2 (7.3)%; P = 0.008] compared with Sham. We show that OVX increased both the percentage of RANKL-positive bone marrow adipocytes and the total BMAT volume fraction in C3H/HeJ mice. Therefore, RANKL produced by bone marrow adipocytes could be an important contributor to OVX-induced bone loss in C3H/HeJ mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1050-E1054
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Bone marrow adipocytes
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ovariectomy

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