Bone resorbing osteoclasts form under the influence of the key osteoclastogenic cytokine Receptor activator of NF-?B ligand (RANKL), which is moderated by its physiological decoy receptor Osteoprotegerin (OPG). The immune system has a potent effect on both physiological and pathological bone turnover. Under basal conditions B-cells, secrete OPG and lymphocytes are thus protective of the skeleton. However, activated B- and T-cells can secrete RANKL leading to bone loss. HIV-infection causes dramatic disruptions of the immuno-skeletal interface, assaulting both T- and B-cell functions. Not surprisingly, bone loss has long been recognized in HIV-infection. Interestingly, regardless of regimen, antiretroviral therapy (ART) further exacerbates bone loss within the first 2 years of therapy. The net result is an up to 9-fold increase in the risk of bone fractures in HIV patients, a significant public health concern with high morbidity, mortality, and dramatic health care costs. The mechanisms by which HIV-infection and ART drive bone loss are however poorly defined. We recently reported bone loss in the HIV transgenic rat, an animal model of HIV-infection, as a result of diminished basal B-cell OPG production in favor of increased RANKL expression. This was compounded by an increased sensitivity of osteoclast precursors to RANKL. Importantly, in a recently published translational clinical study we validated this B-cell imbalance in OPG and RANKL production in HIV-infected ART-nave patients and found that the B cell RANKL/OPG ratio was significantly inversely correlated with bone mineral density (BMD). However, the underlying mechanisms driving alterations in B-cell metabolism remain unknown. As IL-4 is a key regulator of humoral immunity, we examined IL-4 action on murine and human B-cells and found that IL-4 potently promotes B-cell production of OPG, but suppresses that of RANKL. In addition, IL-4 is known to decrease the sensitivity of osteoclast-precursors to RANKL. IL-4 knockout mice have a significant decline in BMD and an increase in bone resorption and a serum deficit in OPG concentrations. We propose to further define the mechanisms driving HIV- and ART-associated bone loss in two specific aims.
Specific Aim 1 will quantify the role of IL-4 in the altered B-cell OPG and RANKL and enhanced bone resorption associated with ART-nave HIV-infected subjects before and after ART initiation during and beyond the acute ART- induced bone loss period.
Specific Aim 2 will employ state-of the-art animal models to define the sources and mechanistic functions of IL-4 in the maintenance of physiological bone mass by direct actions on osteoclasts and indirect actions though OPG.

Public Health Relevance

Bone loss is an established complication of both HIV/AIDS and ART, but the mechanisms remain poorly defined. Understanding how HIV and ART cause bone loss will allow for the future design of novel therapeutic strategies to preserve or restore bone mass to prevent morbidity and mortality associated with bone fracture.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Chen, Faye H
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Emory University
Internal Medicine/Medicine
Schools of Medicine
United States
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