Lipolysis supports bone formation by providing osteoblasts with endogenous fatty acid substrates to maintain bioenergetic status

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Journal Title

Bone research

MeSH Headings

Lipolysis (genetics); Fatty Acids (metabolism); Osteogenesis (genetics); Energy Metabolism; Osteoblasts (metabolism)


Bone formation is a highly energy-demanding process that can be impacted by metabolic disorders. Glucose has been considered the principal substrate for osteoblasts, although fatty acids are also important for osteoblast function. Here, we report that osteoblasts can derive energy from endogenous fatty acids stored in lipid droplets via lipolysis and that this process is critical for bone formation. As such, we demonstrate that osteoblasts accumulate lipid droplets that are highly dynamic and provide the molecular mechanism by which they serve as a fuel source for energy generation during osteoblast maturation. Inhibiting cytoplasmic lipolysis leads to both an increase in lipid droplet size in osteoblasts and an impairment in osteoblast function. The fatty acids released by lipolysis from these lipid droplets become critical for cellular energy production as cellular energetics shifts towards oxidative phosphorylation during nutrient-depleted conditions. In vivo, conditional deletion of the ATGL-encoding gene Pnpla2 in osteoblast progenitor cells reduces cortical and trabecular bone parameters and alters skeletal lipid metabolism. Collectively, our data demonstrate that osteoblasts store fatty acids in the form of lipid droplets, which are released via lipolysis to support cellular bioenergetic status when nutrients are limited. Perturbations in this process result in impairment of bone formation, specifically reducing ATP production and overall osteoblast function.



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