PINK1-mediated mitophagy contributes to glucocorticoid-induced cathepsin K production in osteocytes

Jun Yuan, You shui Gao, De lin Liu, Andrew Chi Pang Tai, Hong Zhou, John M. Papadimitriou, Chang qing Zhang, Ming hao Zheng, Jun jie Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Glucocorticoid (GC) is one of frequently used anti-inflammatory agents, but its administration is unfortunately accompanied with bone loss. Although sporadic studies indicated that osteocytes are subject to a series of pathological changes under GC stress, including overexpression of cathepsin K, the definite role of osteocytes in GC-induced bone loss remains largely unclear. Methods: Gene expression of Ctsk and protein levels of cathepsin K were assessed in MLO-Y4 cell lines exposed to dexamethasone (Dex) of different time (0, 12, 24 hours) and dose (0, 10-8 and 10-6 M) courses by RT-qPCR and western blotting, respectively. Confocal imaging and immunostaining were then performed to evaluate the effects of osteocyte-derived cathepsin K on type I collagen in a primary osteocyte ex vivo culture system. MitoTracker Red was used to stain mitochondria for mitochondria morphology assessment and JC-1 assay was employed to evaluate the mitochondria membrane potential in MLO-Y4 cells following Dex treatment. Activation of PINK1-mediated mitophagy was evaluated by immunostaining of the PINK1 protein and CytoID assay. Mdivi-1 was used to inhibit mitophagy and siRNAs were used for the inhibition of Pink1 and Atg5. Results: GC triggered osteocytes to produce excessive cathepsin K which in turn led to the degradation of type I collagen in the extracellular matrix in a primary osteocyte ex vivo culture system. Meanwhile, GC administration increased mitochondrial fission and membrane depolarization in osteocytes. Further, the activation of PINK1-mediated mitophagy was demonstrated to be responsible for the diminishment of dysfunctional mitochondria in osteocytes. Examination of relationship between mitophagy and cathepsin K production revealed that inhibition of mitophagy via knocking down Pink1 gene abolished the GC-triggered cathepsin K production. Interestingly, GC's activation effect towards cathepsin K via mitophagy was found to be independent on the canonical autophagy as this effect was not impeded when inhibiting the canonical autophagy via Atg5 suppression. Conclusion: GC-induced PINK1-mediated mitophagy substantially modulates the production of cathepsin K in osteocytes, which could be an underlying mechanism by which osteocytes contribute to the extracellular matrix degradation during bone loss. The Translational potential of this article: Findings of the current study indicate a possible role of osteocyte mitophagy in GC-induced bone loss, which provides a potential therapeutic approach to alleviate GC-induced osteoporosis by targeting PINK1-mediated osteocytic mitophagy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-240
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Translation
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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