T cell activation induces human osteoclast formation via receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand-dependent and -independent mechanisms

M. Neale Weitzmann, Simone Cenci, Leonard Rifas, Jeffrey Haug, John Dipersio, Roberto Pacifici

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In unstimulated conditions, osteoclast (OC) formation is regulated by stromal cell production of the key osteoclastogenic factors receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF). However, the mechanisms of accelerated osteoclastogenesis and bone loss characteristic of inflammatory conditions are poorly understood but appear to involve T cells. In addition, the mechanism by which OCs arise spontaneously in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in the absence of stromal cells or added cytokines remains unclear. Using a stromal cell free human osteoclast generating system, we investigated the ability of activated T cells to support osteoclastogenesis. We show that when activated by phytohemagglutinin-P (PHA), T cells (both CD4+ and CD8+) stimulate human OC formation in vitro. Although both soluble M-CSF and RANKL were detected in activated T cell supernatants, the presence of M-CSF was not essential for macrophage survival or RANKL-dependent osteoclast formation, suggesting that other soluble T cell-derived factors were capable of substituting for this cytokine. We also found that saturating concentrations of osteoprotegerin (OPG) failed to neutralize 30% of the observed OC formation and that T cell conditioned medium (CM) could superinduce osteoclastogenesis in cultures of purified monocytes maximally stimulated by RANKL and M-CSF. Together, these data suggest that activated T cells support osteoclastogenesis via RANKL-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Although not relevant for T cell-induced osteoclastogenesis, secretion of soluble M-CSF is a previously undescribed property of activated T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-337
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Macrophage colony-stimulating factor
  • Osteoclast
  • Osteoprotegerin
  • Receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand
  • T cell


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