Indexed on: 19 Mar '05Published on: 19 Mar '05Published in: Journal of Molecular Medicine
Recently a close relationship between the immune and skeletal systems or the interdisciplinary field called osteoimmunology has attracted much attention due to the observations that bone destruction is caused by an abnormal activation of the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis, and that mice lacking immunomodulatory molecules often exhibit an unexpected bone phenotype. Osteoclasts are cells of monocyte/macrophage origin that degrade the bone matrix. They are among the key players in the control of bone metabolism in health and disease. Receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL), a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family cytokine, induces the differentiation of osteoclasts in the presence of macrophage-colony stimulating factor. RANKL activates TRAF6, c-Fos, and calcium signaling pathways, all of which are indispensable for the induction and activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) c1, the master transcription factor for osteoclastogenesis. The autoamplification of NFATc1 gene results in the efficient induction of osteoclast-specific genes. An AP-1 transcription factor complex containing c-Fos plays a crucial role in these processes, although results in conditional knockout mice show that Jun family members have a redundant role. The immunoreceptor tyrosine-based activation motif (ITAM) is an important signaling component for a number of receptors in the immune system including T-cell, B-cell, NK-cell, and Fc receptors, but its contribution to the skeletal system remains unclarified. In search for the calcium-mobilizing mechanism during osteoclastogenesis we determined that multiple immunoglobulinlike receptors associated with ITAM-harboring adaptors, Fc receptor common gamma chain (FcRgamma), and DNAX-activating protein (DAP) 12, are essential for osteoclastogenesis. In osteoclast precursor cells FcRgamma-associated receptors include osteoclast-associated receptor and paired immunoglobulinlike receptor A, while triggering receptor expressed in myeloid cells 2 and signal-regulatory protein beta1 preferentially associate with DAP12. In cooperation with RANKL these receptors activate phospholipase Cgamma and calcium signaling essential for the induction of NFATc1 through ITAM phosphorylation. Thus we have established the importance of the ITAM-mediated costimulatory signals in RANKL-induced osteoclast differentiation, which is analogous to the role of costimulatory signals in the immune system. Here we summarize recent advances in the study of signaling mechanism of osteoclast differentiation in the context of osteoimmunology.