Do epigenetic marks govern bone mass and homeostasis?
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Bone is a specialized connective tissue with a calcified extracellular matrix in which cells are embedded.
Besides providing the internal support of the body and protection for vital organs, bone also has several
important metabolic functions, especially in mineral homeostasis. Far from being a passive tissue, it is
continuously being resorbed and formed again throughout life, by a process known as bone remodeling.
Bone development and remodeling are influenced by many factors, some of which may be modifiable in
the early steps of life. Several studies have shown that environmental factors in uterus and in infancy may
modify the skeletal growth pattern, influencing the risk of bone disease in later life. On the other hand,
bone remodeling is a highly orchestrated multicellular process that requires the sequential and balanced
events of osteoclast-mediated bone resorption and osteoblast-mediated bone formation. These processes
are accompanied by specific gene expression patterns which are responsible for the differentiation of the
mesenchymal and hematopoietic precursors of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, respectively, and the activity
of differentiated bone cells. This review summarizes the current understanding of how epigenetic
mechanisms influence these processes and their possible role in common skeletal diseases.
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