Membrane trafficking in osteoclasts and implications for osteoporosis

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40 Citations (Scopus)


Osteoclasts are large multinucleated cells exquisitely adapted to resorb bone matrix. Like other eukaryotes, osteoclasts possess an elaborate ensemble of intracellular organelles through which solutes, proteins and other macromolecules are trafficked to their target destinations via membrane-bound intermediaries. During bone resorption, membrane trafficking must be tightly regulated to sustain the structural and functional polarity of the osteoclasts' membrane domains. Of these, the ruffled border (RB) is most characteristic, functioning as the osteoclasts' secretory apparatus. This highly convoluted organelle is classically considered to be formed by the targeted fusion of acidic vesicles with the bone-facing plasma membrane. Emerging findings disclose new evidence that the RB is far more complex than previously envisaged, possessing discrete subdomains that are serviced by several intersecting endocytic, secretory, transcytotic and autophagic pathways. Bone-resorbing osteoclasts therefore serve as a unique model system for studying polarized membrane trafficking. Recent advances in high-resolution microscopy together with the convergence of genetic and cell biological studies in humans and in mice have helped illuminate the major membrane trafficking pathways in osteoclasts and unmask the core molecular machinery that governs these distinct vesicle transport routes. Among these, small Rab GTPases, their binding partners and members of the endocytic sorting nexin family have emerged as critical regulators. This mini review summarizes our current understanding of membrane trafficking in osteoclasts, the key molecular participants, and discusses how these transport machinery may be exploited for the development of new therapies for metabolic disorders of bone-like osteoporosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-650
Number of pages12
JournalBiochemical Society Transactions
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019


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