Osteoclast-mediated bone resorption plays an essential role in calcium homeostasis and lactation. The cytokine receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) is one of a number of factors that controls the production, survival, and activity of osteoclasts. Calciotropic hormones, such as PTH, control RANKL transcription in part via an enhancer known as the distal control region (DCR), and mice lacking this enhancer have fewer osteoclasts under normal physiological conditions. Here, we have addressed the role of the DCR in situations in which activation of the PTH receptor is thought to stimulate bone resorption via elevation of RANKL expression. Dietary calcium deficiency stimulated RANKL expression in the bone of young (1 month old) wild-type, but not DCR knockout (KO), mice. Consistent with this, the cancellous bone loss and the increase in osteoclasts caused by dietary calcium deficiency were blunted in young KO mice. DCR deletion also prevented the increase in RANKL expression caused by dietary calcium deficiency in 6-month-old mice. However, the diet-induced bone loss was similar in wild-type and KO mice at this age. The increase in RANKL expression caused by lactation was also blunted in DCR KO mice, but lactation-induced bone loss was similar in both genotypes. These results demonstrate that, even though the DCR is required for the increase in RANKL expression associated with hyperparathyroidism or lactation, this increase is not required for the bone loss caused by these conditions in adult mice, suggesting that changes in other factors, such as osteoprotegerin or estrogen levels, play a dominant role.
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