Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cell Biology



First Thesis Advisor

Ellen M. Gravallese, M.D.


Inflammation, Osteogenesis, Arthritis, Rheumatoid, Wnt Signaling Pathway, Bone Morphogenetic Protein Receptors


Osteoclast-mediated focal articular bone erosion is a hallmark of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease of inflammation-induced bone loss. Inflammation in the bone microenvironment enhances osteoclast differentiation leading to bone erosion. Simultaneously, inflammation also inhibits osteoblast-mediated bone formation, further contributing to the net loss of bone. Previous studies have shown a paucity of mature osteoblasts at eroded bone surfaces correlating with suppression of bone formation and upregulation of antagonists of the Wnt pathway, a signaling cascade essential for osteoblast lineage commitment. Despite these observations, the exact pathogenesis of impaired bone formation in the setting of inflammation is not clearly understood.

This dissertation aims to delineate the mechanisms by which inflammation suppresses osteoblast differentiation and activity in inflammatory arthritis. Specifically, this research elucidates how inflammation-induced alterations in the Wnt and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) osteogenic signaling pathways contribute to bone loss and formation at distinct inflammatory microenvironments within the bone. Secondly, the means by which cellular mediators, including lymphocytes and macrophages, facilitate bone erosion and formation was addressed.

Taken together, the research in this dissertation underscores the relationship between inflammation-induced bone loss and alterations in osteogenic signaling. Using an innovative murine inflammatory arthritis model, this study definitively demonstrates that resolving inflammation promotes osteoblast-mediated bone formation. Repair of erosions correlates with upregulation of synovial expression of Wnt10b, a Wnt agonist, and downregulation of sFRP1 and sFRP2, Wnt antagonists. This work also directly evaluates the contribution of sFRP1 to inflammation-induced bone destruction. Furthermore, this research demonstrates that expression of BMP3, a negative regulator of BMP signaling, is upregulated in osteoblasts by IL-17, a pro-inflammatory cytokine. BMP3-expressing osteoblasts are also observed at erosion sites in murine arthritis. Lastly, evaluation of the mediators of inflammation-induced periosteal bone formation implicates BMP2 as a means by which inflammation may positively regulate osteoblast function.

This dissertation further elucidates the role of T cells and macrophages in the erosion and formation processes, respectively. In the absence of lymphocytes, bone erosion occurred normally, demonstrating that RANKL-expressing lymphocytes are not absolutely required for the bone erosion. Preliminary studies also suggest that M2 macrophages are potential mediators of bone formation via the expression of BMP2.

In conclusion, this dissertation explores the ability of inflammation to act as a rheostat, which controls the fate of bone by modulating not only osteoclast differentiation, but also osteogenic signaling pathways and cellular mediators in the bone microenvironment. The soluble mediators and cell types identified in this research highlight novel mechanisms by which inflammation may regulate osteoblast activity within the bone microenvironment. Collectively, these data imply that strict control of inflammation may be necessary in order to create an anabolic environment that preserves bone architecture in diseases of inflammation-induced bone loss.



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