Nature reviews. Endocrinology 2016 5 27() doi 10.1038/nrendo.2016.71
Osteocytes are differentiated osteoblasts that become surrounded by matrix during the process of bone formation. Acquisition of the osteocyte phenotype is achieved by profound changes in gene expression that facilitate adaptation to the changing cellular environment and constitute the molecular signature of osteocytes. During osteocytogenesis, the expression of genes that are characteristic of the osteoblast are altered and the expression of genes and/or proteins that impart dendritic cellular morphology, regulate matrix mineralization and control the function of cells at the bone surface are ordely modulated. The discovery of mutations in human osteocytic genes has contributed, in a large part, to our understanding of the role of osteocytes in bone homeostasis. Osteocytes are targets of the mechanical force imposed on the skeleton and have a critical role in integrating mechanosensory pathways with the action of hormones, which thereby leads to the orchestrated response of bone to environmental cues. Current, therapeutic approaches harness this accumulating knowledge by targeting osteocytic signalling pathways and messengers to improve skeletal health.