Numerous studies show that connexin43 gap junctions play a critical, albeit complex, role in the achievement of peak bone mass, maintenance of bone quality, and the response to the bone anabolic effects of intermittent parathyroid hormone and mechanical load. The skeletal effects of connexin43 deletions differ based on age, loading, disuse, and even anatomical location. This complexity has challenged the dogma regarding the function of connexin43 in bone in certain contexts. While biophysical data have shown that second messengers of varying molecular mass can pass through connexin43 channels, we have little insight into the which messengers are biologically relevant, their biological consequences, and the range or directionality with which these signals propagate between osteocytes and osteoblasts. These issues are fundamentally important to unravelling the seemingly paradoxical findings for connexin43?s functions in bone and to understand bone homeostasis. Supported by new and published data and using cAMP as a model second messenger, our goal is to test the idea that signals, which arise in a subset of responsive bone cells, are then distributed by connexin43 across distances to the appropriate effector cells to coordinate tissue remodeling. In the absence of connexin43, this asymmetrical response to the stimuli and inability to share it results in unintended partitioning of signals in a subset of cells, disrupting the physiological function. These events, in turn, result in hyper-signaling in the responding cells and the absence of signaling in neighboring populations. This uncouples coordinated bone remodeling and leads to low bone quality. This model of signal partitioning could explain these seemingly paradoxical findings for connexin43 deficiency in cortical bone basally and in response to load. We will test the central hypothesis that intercellular communication of cAMP through connexin43 acts as a molecular ruler, spatially defining bone remodeling. Thus, the ability of connexin43 to permit long-distance translation of biological signals between cells defines the distance from a source that coordinated bone remodeling occurs. We will examine this hypothesis in two aims. The first will examine how connexin43 communicated cAMP spatially regulates osteoblast and osteocyte activity and cortical bone remodeling. The second will examine the molecular consequence of connexin43-communicated cAMP on the magnitude and/or sensitivity of the cortical bone mechano-response. Our exciting preliminary data show that cAMP primes the response of osteocytes to mechanical cues, at least in part, by modulating the sensitivity of a TRPV4-dependent mechano-transduction pathway. In total, these studies will address fundamentally important questions about the signals being transmitted by bone cells, the range and consequence with which their communication impacts bone remodeling and will help to explain the paradoxical impacts of connexin43 on bone mechano-responsiveness and anabolic responses to intermittent PTH.

Public Health Relevance

This project will examine the fundamental basis by which intercellular communication by bone cells can affect the local skeletal tissue remodeling response, which contributes to bone mass, bone quality, and the effectiveness of bone anabolic therapies. These findings will have implications on skeletal fragility, osteoporosis, and methods to optimize bone health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Skeletal Biology Development and Disease Study Section (SBDD)
Program Officer
Nicks, Kristy
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Maryland Baltimore
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Moorer, Megan C; Stains, Joseph P (2017) Connexin43 and the Intercellular Signaling Network Regulating Skeletal Remodeling. Curr Osteoporos Rep 15:24-31
Buo, Atum M; Tomlinson, Ryan E; Eidelman, Eric R et al. (2017) Connexin43 and Runx2 Interact to Affect Cortical Bone Geometry, Skeletal Development, and Osteoblast and Osteoclast Function. J Bone Miner Res 32:1727-1738
Lyons, James S; Joca, Humberto C; Law, Robert A et al. (2017) Microtubules tune mechanotransduction through NOX2 and TRPV4 to decrease sclerostin abundance in osteocytes. Sci Signal 10:
Moorer, Megan C; Hebert, Carla; Tomlinson, Ryan E et al. (2017) Defective signaling, osteoblastogenesis and bone remodeling in a mouse model of connexin 43 C-terminal truncation. J Cell Sci 130:531-540
Gupta, Aditi; Anderson, Hidayah; Buo, Atum M et al. (2016) Communication of cAMP by connexin43 gap junctions regulates osteoblast signaling and gene expression. Cell Signal 28:1048-57
Stains, Joseph P; Civitelli, Roberto (2016) Connexins in the skeleton. Semin Cell Dev Biol 50:31-9
Lyons, James S; Iyer, Shama R; Lovering, Richard M et al. (2016) Novel multi-functional fluid flow device for studying cellular mechanotransduction. J Biomech 49:4173-4179
Buo, Atum M; Williams, Mark S; Kerr, Jaclyn P et al. (2016) A cost-effective method to enhance adenoviral transduction of primary murine osteoblasts and bone marrow stromal cells. Bone Res 4:16021
Stains, Joseph P; Civitelli, Roberto (2016) A Functional Assay to Assess Connexin 43-Mediated Cell-to-Cell Communication of Second Messengers in Cultured Bone Cells. Methods Mol Biol 1437:193-201
Liu, Shuo; Niger, Corinne; Koh, Eugene Y et al. (2015) Connexin43 Mediated Delivery of ADAMTS5 Targeting siRNAs from Mesenchymal Stem Cells to Synovial Fibroblasts. PLoS One 10:e0129999

Showing the most recent 10 out of 23 publications