Osteocytes comprising over 90% of the bone cell population are highly susceptible to the adverse effects of glucocorticoids (GC) administration. Here we observed that Dexamethasone (Dex) induces a robust cytoskeleton rearrangement and decreases Cx43 protein expression in osteocyte-like MLO-Y4 cells. Using a Dmp1 Cre -mT/mG osteocyte ex vivo culture system, we found significant shortening of dendritic processes in primary osteocytes following Dex administration. Loss of dendritic processes is a consequence of reduced Cx43 connectivity upon Dex induced autophagy in both RFP-GFP-LC3B transfected MLO-Y4 cells and primary calvarial osteocytes from LC3 GFP transgenic mice. Upon the induction of autophagy by Dex, Cx43 was internalized into autophagosome/autolysosomes and degraded by autophagy. The degradation was attenuated following lysosomal inhibition using chloroquine (CLQ) and suppression of autophagy by Atg5 silencing. Inhibition Akt-mTORC1 signaling by Dex induces autophagy subsequently resulting in Cx43 degradation. Activation of Akt phosphorylation by IGF-1 attenuated Dex induced autophagy and degradation of Cx43. Together, we demonstrated that GC impair osteocyte cell-cell connectivity via autophagy mediated degradation of Cx43 through inhibition of the Akt-mTORC1 signaling. This may account for the deleterious effect of GC-induced bone loss.
Gao, J., Cheng, T. S., Qin, A., Pavlos, N. J., Wang, T., Song, K., … Zheng, M. (2016). Glucocorticoid impairs cell-cell communication by autophagy-mediated degradation of connexin 43 in osteocytes. Oncotarget, 7(19). https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.9034