Inflammation Research

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 157–166 | Cite as

Constant hypoxia inhibits osteoclast differentiation and bone resorption by regulating phosphorylation of JNK and IκBα

  • Zhenzhen Ma
  • Ruohan Yu
  • Jinxia Zhao
  • Lin Sun
  • Leilei Jian
  • Changhong LiEmail author
  • Xiangyuan LiuEmail author
Original Research Paper



Osteoclasts are responsible for the bone loss in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Hypoxia has been suggested to play key roles in pathological bone loss. However, the current understanding of the effects of hypoxia on osteoclastogenesis is controversial. Effects of hypoxia on both the formation and function of osteoclasts requires examination. In the current study, we aimed to explore the effect of hypoxia on osteoclast differentiation and the underlying mechanisms.


RAW264.7 cells and murine bone-marrow-derived monocytes were used to induce osteoclastogenesis in the presence of macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) and receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa B ligand (RANKL). Hypoxic conditions were maintained in a hypoxic chamber at 5% CO2 and 1% O2, balanced with N2. Osteoclasts were detected by tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) staining. A bone resorption assay was carried out in vitro using bone slices. RT-PCR was conducted to detect osteoclast markers and transcription factors. The phosphorylation of nuclear factor-κBα (IκBα), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), extracellular regulated protein kinase (ERK), and p38 was detected by western blotting. Mann–Whitney U test or Student’s t test was used to compare differences between the two groups.


TRAP staining and the bone resorption assay revealed that hypoxia-restrained osteoclast differentiation and bone resorption. Expression of osteoclast markers including cathepsin K, RANK, and TRAP decreased during osteoclast differentiation under hypoxic conditions (all P < 0.05). Hypoxia at 1% O2 did not affect cell viability, whereas it dramatically abated RANKL-dependent phosphorylation of the JNK-mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and IκBα pathways. Moreover, the expression of nuclear factor of activated T-cell cytoplasmic 1 (NFATc1) was inhibited under hypoxic conditions (all P < 0.05).


These results suggest that constant hypoxia at 1% O2 significantly restrains osteoclast formation and resorbing function without affecting cell viability. Constant hypoxia might inhibit RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis by regulating NFATc1 expression via interfering the phosphorylation of JNK and IκBα.


Hypoxia Osteoclast Osteoclastogenesis JNK-mitogen-activated protein kinases NFATC transcription factors 



We gratefully thank the Medical Research Center of Peking University Third Hospital for kindly providing the RAW264.7 cells. We thank the Medical Research Center of Peking University Third Hospital for providing experimental equipment and technical support.


This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81471599) and the National Young Scholars Foundation of China (No. 81501387), the Prairie Fire Program (LYJH-92).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

11_2018_1209_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 20 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Rheumatology and ImmunologyPeking University Third HospitalBeijingChina

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