The skeleton as an endocrine organ

Douglas J. DiGirolamo, Thomas L. Clemens, Stavroula Kousteni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Surprising new discoveries in the field of skeletal biology show that bone cells produce endocrine hormones that regulate phosphate and glucose homeostasis. In this Review, we examine the features of these new endocrine pathways and discuss their physiological importance in the context of our current understanding of energy metabolism and mineral homeostasis. Consideration of evolutionary and comparative biology provides clues that a key driving force for the emergence of these hormonal pathways was the development of a large, energy-expensive musculoskeletal system. Specialized bone cells also evolved and produced endocrine hormones to integrate the skeleton in global mineral and nutrient homeostasis. The recognition of bone as a true endocrine organ represents a fertile area for further research and should improve the diagnosis and treatment of metabolic diseases such as osteoporosis and diabetes mellitus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)674-683
Number of pages10
JournalNature Reviews Rheumatology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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