Clinical Implications of Basic Research

Osteoblasts in Bone Physiology – Mini Review

Nahum Rosenberg, Orit Rosenberg and Michael Soudry


Bone structural integrity and shape are maintained by removal of old matrix by osteoclasts and in-situ synthesis of new bone by osteoblasts. These cells comprise the basic multicellular unit (BMU). Bone mass maintenance is determined by the net anabolic activity of the BMU, when the matrix elaboration of the osteoblasts equals or exceeds the bone resorption by the osteoclasts. The normal function of the BMU causes a continuous remodeling process of the bone, with deposition of bony matrix (osteoid) along the vectors of the generated force by gravity and attached muscle activity. The osteoblasts are derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Circulating hormones and locally produced cytokines and growth factors modulate the replication and differentiation of osteoclast and osteoblast progenitors. The appropriate number of the osteoblasts in the BMU is determined by the differentiation of the precursor bone-marrow stem cells into mature osteoblasts, their proliferation with subsequent maturation into metabolically active osteocytes, and osteoblast degradation by apoptosis. Thus, the two crucial points to target when planning to control the osteoblast population are the processes of cell proliferation and apoptosis, which are regulated by cellular hedgehog and Wnt pathways that involve humoral and mechanical stimulations. Osteoblasts regulate both bone matrix synthesis and mineralization directly by their own synthetic activities, and bone resorption indirectly by its paracrinic effects on osteoclasts. The overall synthetic and regulatory activities of osteoblasts govern bone tissue integrity and shape.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2012;3(2):e0013