Galectin-3 is essential for proper bone cell differentiation and activity, bone remodeling and biomechanical competence in mice

Carla Iacobini, Claudia Blasetti Fantauzzi, Rossella Bedini, Raffaella Pecci, Armando Bartolazzi, Bruno Amadio, Carlo Pesce, Giuseppe Pugliese, Stefano Menini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Galectin-3 is constitutively expressed in bone cells and was recently shown to modulate osteogenic transdifferentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells and atherosclerotic calcification. However, the role of galectin-3 in bone physiology is largely undefined. To address this issue, we analyzed (1) the skeletal features of 1-, 3- and 6-month-old galectin-3 null (Lgals3−/−) and wild type (WT) mice and (2) the differentiation and function of osteoblasts and osteoclasts derived from these animals. Methods: Long bone phenotype, gene expression profile, and remodeling were investigated by micro-computed tomography, real time-PCR, static and dynamic histomorphometry, and assessment of biochemical markers of bone resorption and formation. Bone competence was also evaluated by biomechanical testing at 3 months. In vitro, the effects of galectin-3 deficiency on bone cell differentiation and function were investigated by assessing (a) gene expression of osteoblast markers, alkaline phosphatase activity, mineralization assay, and WNT/β-catenin signaling (of which galectin-3 is a known regulator) in osteoblasts; and (b) tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity and bone resorption activity in osteoclasts. Results: Lgals3−/− mice revealed a wide range of age-dependent alterations including lower bone formation and higher bone resorption, accelerated age-dependent trabecular bone loss (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months) and reduced bone strength (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months). These abnormalities were accompanied by a steady inflammatory state, as revealed by higher bone expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6 (p < 0.001 vs. WT at 3 months), increased content of osteal macrophages (p < 0.01 vs. WT at 3 months), and reduced expression of markers of alternative (M2) macrophage activation. Lgals3−/− osteoblasts and osteoclasts showed impaired terminal differentiation, reduced mineralization capacity (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells) and resorption activity (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells). Mechanistically, impaired differentiation and function of Lgals3−/− osteoblasts was associated with altered WNT/β-catenin signaling (p < 0.01 vs. WT cells). Conclusions: These data provide evidence for a contribution of galectin-3 to bone cell maturation and function, bone remodeling, and biomechanical competence, thus identifying galectin-3 as a promising therapeutic target for age-related disorders of bone remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-158
Number of pages10
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Bone remodeling
  • Bone strength
  • Galectin-3
  • Macrophages
  • Osteoblasts
  • Osteoclasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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