Primary cilia, solitary microtubule-based structures that grow from the centriole and extend into the extracellular space, have increasingly been implicated as sensors of a variety of biochemical and biophysical signals. Mutations in primary cilium-related genes have been linked to a number of rare developmental disorders as well as dysregulation of cell proliferation. We propose that primary cilia are also important in mechanically regulated bone formation in adults and that their malfunction could play a role in complex multi-factorial bone diseases, such as osteoporosis. In this study, we generated mice with an osteoblast- and osteocyte-specific knockout of Kif3a, a subunit of the kinesin II intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein; IFT is required for primary cilia formation, maintenance, and function. These Colα1(I) 2.3-Cre;Kif3a fl/fl mice exhibited no obvious morphological skeletal abnormalities. Skeletally mature Colα1(I) 2.3-Cre;Kif3a fl/fl and control mice were exposed to 3 consecutive days of cyclic axial ulna loading, which resulted in a significant increase in bone formation in both the conditional knockouts and controls. However, Colα1(I) 2.3-Cre;Kif3a fl/fl mice did exhibit decreased formation of new bone in response to mechanical ulnar loading compared to control mice. These results suggest that primary cilia act as cellular mechanosensors in bone and that their function may be critical for the regulation of bone physiology due to mechanical loading in adults.
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