Connexin 43 Channels in Osteocytes Are Necessary for Bone Mass and Skeletal Muscle Function in Aged Male Mice

Guobin Li, Lan Zhang, Zhe Lu, Baoqiang Yang, Hui Yang, Peng Shang, Jean X. Jiang, Dong’en Wang, Huiyun Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Osteoporosis and sarcopenia (termed “Osteosarcopenia”), the twin-aging diseases, are major contributors to reduced bone mass and muscle weakness in the elderly population. Connexin 43 (Cx43) in osteocytes has been previously reported to play vital roles in bone homeostasis and muscle function in mature mice. The Cx43-formed gap junctions (GJs) and hemichannels (HCs) in osteocytes are important portals for the exchange of small molecules in cell-to-cell and cell-to-extracellular matrix, respectively. However, the roles of Cx43-based GJs and HCs in both bone and muscle aging are still unclear. Here, we used two transgenic mouse models with overexpression of the dominant negative Cx43 mutants primarily in osteocytes driven by the 10-kb Dmp1 promoter, R76W mice (inhibited gap junctions but enhanced hemichannels) and Δ130–136 mice (both gap junction and hemichannels are inhibited), to determine the actions of Cx43-based hemichannels (HCs) and gap junctions (GJs) in the regulation of bone and skeletal muscle from aged mice (18 months) as compared with those from adult mice (10 months). We demonstrated that enhancement of Cx43 HCs reduces bone mass due to increased osteoclast surfaces while the impairment of Cx43 HCs increases osteocyte apoptosis in aged mice caused by reduced PGE2 levels. Furthermore, altered mitochondrial homeostasis with reduced expression of Sirt-1, OPA-1, and Drp-1 resulted in excessive ROS level in muscle soleus (SL) of aged transgenic mice. In vitro, the impairment of Cx43 HCs in osteocytes from aged mice also promoted muscle collagen synthesis through activation of TGFβ/smad2/3 signaling because of reduced PGE2 levels in the PO CM. These findings indicate that the enhancement of Cx43 HCs while GJs are inhibited reduces bone mass, and the impairment of Cx43 HCs inhibits PGE2 level in osteocytes and this reduction promotes muscle collagen synthesis in skeletal muscle through activation of TGFβ/smad2/3 signaling, which together with increased ROS level contributes to reduced muscle force in aged mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13506
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • aging
  • bone-muscle crosstalk
  • gap junctions
  • hemichannels
  • osteocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Catalysis
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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