Seven young patients with X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH, having inactivating PHEX mutations) were discovered to accumulate osteopontin (OPN) at the sites of defective bone mineralization near osteocytes − the so-called hallmark periosteocytic (lacunar) “halos” of XLH. OPN was also localized in the pericanalicular matrix extending beyond the osteocyte lacunae, as well as in the hypomineralized matrix of tooth dentin. OPN, a potent inhibitor of mineralization normally degraded by PHEX, is a member of a family of acidic, phosphorylated, calcium-binding, extracellular matrix proteins known to regulate dental, skeletal, and pathologic mineralization. Associated with the increased amount of OPN (along with inhibitory OPN peptide fragments) in XLH bone matrix, we found an enlarged, hypomineralized, lacuno-canalicular network – a defective pattern of skeletal mineralization that decreases stiffness locally at: i) the cell-matrix interface in the pericellular environment of the mechanosensing osteocyte, and ii) the osteocyte's dendritic network of cell processes extending throughout the bone. Our findings of an excess of inhibitory OPN near osteocytes and their cell processes, and in dentin, spatially correlates with the defective mineralization observed at these sites in the skeleton and teeth of XLH patients. These changes likely contribute to the dento-osseous pathobiology of XLH, and participate in the aberrant bone adaptation and remodeling seen in XLH.
- Osteocytic halos