Contempo Updates
Clinician's Corner
July 28, 2004

Clinical Implications of the Osteoprotegerin/RANKL/RANK System for Bone and Vascular Diseases

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Gastroenterology, Endocrinology and Metabolism (Dr Hofbauer), and Cardiology (Dr Schoppet), Philipps-University, Marburg, Germany.


Contempo Updates Section Editor: Catherine Meyer, MD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2004;292(4):490-495. doi:10.1001/jama.292.4.490

Bone resorption by osteoclasts is coupled with bone formation by osteoblasts, and this balanced process continuously remodels and adapts the skeleton. The receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) has been identified as an essential cytokine for the formation and activation of osteoclasts. The effects of RANKL are physiologically counterbalanced by the decoy receptor osteoprotegerin (OPG). Estrogen deficiency, glucocorticoid exposure, T-cell activation (eg, rheumatoid arthritis), and skeletal malignancies (eg, myeloma, metastases) enhance the ratio of RANKL to OPG and, thus, promote osteoclastogenesis, accelerate bone resorption, and induce bone loss. Moreover, alterations of the OPG/RANKL/RANK system have been implicated in vascular diseases. RANKL blockade (using OPG or RANK fusion proteins or RANKL antibodies) has prevented bone loss caused by osteoporosis, chronic inflammatory disorders, and malignant tumors in animal models and may emerge as a therapy in humans based on studies in postmenopausal osteoporosis, myeloma bone disease, and osteolytic metastases. This review summarizes the clinical implications of the OPG/RANKL/RANK system for bone and vascular diseases.