Bone remodelling is tightly regulated by a molecular triad composed of OPG/RANK/RANKL. The receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) (localized on osteoblasts) enhances osteoclastogenesis via interaction with its receptor RANK (localized on osteoclasts), whereas osteoprotegerin (OPG) (produced by osteoblasts) inhibits this osteoclastogenesis by binding to RANKL. The equilibrium between OPG and RANKL plays a crucial role in the pathophysiology of bone. Although some studies have shown the efficacy of OPG as a therapeutic agent against bone resorption, its bioavailability and mechanism of action after binding to RANKL have only recently been studied. A mechanistic investigation based on what becomes of OPG after binding to cells expressing membranous RANKL demonstrated an internalization process of OPG through the clathrin pathway prior to proteasomal and/or lysosomal degradation. Interestingly, the OPG internalization process reduced the half-life of RANKL. Recent evidence has shown that subchondral bone alterations in osteoarthritis (OA) are intimately involved in cartilage degradation, and that OPG/RANKL may be implicated. Data show that human OA subchondral bone osteoblasts have abnormal OPG and RANKL levels and consequently an altered OPG and RANKL ratio. Further data also reveal the involvement of some osteotropic factors in these altered levels and that some of these factors generally target RANKL with a differential modulation of the RANKL isoforms. Altogether, data suggest that this system could be targeted as a new strategy for the treatment of OA.
2009 by The Keio Journal of Medicine