To define the cellular and molecular mechanisms for the osteogenic response of bone to increased loading, several key steps must be defined: sensing of the mechanical signal by cells in bone, transduction of the mechanical signal to a biochemical one, and transmission of that biochemical signal to effector cells. Osteocytes are likely to serve as sensors of loading, probably via interstitial fluid flow produced during loading. Evidence is presented for the role of integrins, the cell’s actin cytoskeleton, G proteins, and various intracellular signaling pathways in transducing that mechanical signal to a biochemical one. Nitric oxide, prostaglandins, and insulin-like growth factors all play important roles in these pathways. There is growing evidence for modulation of these mechanotransduction steps by endocrine factors, particularly parathyroid hormone and estrogen. The efficiency of this process is also impaired in the aged animal, yet what remains undefined is at what step mechanotransduction is affected.
S.A. Bloomfield is with the Department of Health & Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4243.