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The maintenance of adequate bone mass is dependent upon the controlled and timely removal of old, damaged bone. This complex process is performed by the highly specialized, multinucleated osteoclast. Over the past 15 years, a detailed picture has emerged describing the origins, differentiation pathways and activation stages that contribute to normal osteoclast function. This information has primarily been obtained by the development and skeletal analysis of genetically modified mouse models. Mice harboring mutations in specific genetic loci exhibit bone defects as a direct result of aberrations in normal osteoclast recruitment, formation or function. These findings include the identification of the RANK-RANKL-OPG system as a primary mediator of osteoclastogenesis, the characterization of ion transport and cellular attachment mechanisms and the recognition that matrix-degrading enzymes are essential components of resorptive activity. This Review focuses on the principal observations in osteoclast biology derived from genetic mouse models, and highlights emerging concepts that describe how the osteoclast is thought to contribute to the maintenance of adequate bone mass and integrity throughout life.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Rev Rheumatol

Publication Date





235 - 243


Animals, Biomarkers, Bone Density, Bone Resorption, Bone and Bones, Cell Differentiation, Cell Lineage, Disease Models, Animal, Mice, Mice, Transgenic, Osteoclasts