HB-GAM (also known as pleiotrophin) is a cell matrix-associated protein that is highly expressed in bone. It affects osteoblast function, and might therefore play a role in bone development and remodeling. We aimed to investigate the role of HB-GAM in bone in vivo and in vitro. The bones of HB-GAM deficient mice with an inbred mouse background were studied by histological, histomorphometrical, radiological, biomechanical and μ-CT analyses and the effect of immobilization was evaluated. HB-GAM localization in vivo was studied. MLO-Y4 osteocytes were subjected to fluid shear stress in vitro, and gene and protein expression were studied by subtractive hybridization, quantitative PCR and Western blot. Human osteoclasts were cultured in the presence of rhHB-GAM and their formation and resorption activities were assayed. In agreement with previous reports, the skeletal structure of the HB-GAM knockout mice developed normally. However, a growth retardation of the weight-bearing bones was observed by 2 months of age, suggesting a link to physical activity. Adult HB-GAM deficient mice were characterized by low bone formation and osteopenia, as well as resistance to immobilization-dependent bone remodeling. HB-GAM was localized around osteocytes and their processes in vivo and furthermore, osteocytic HB-GAM expression was upregulated by mechanical loading in vitro. HB-GAM did not affect on human osteoclast formation or resorption in vitro. Taken together, our results suggest that HB-GAM is an osteocyte-derived factor that could participate in mediating the osteogenic effects of mechanical loading on bone.
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