Estradiol influences the mechanical properties of human fetal osteoblasts through cytoskeletal changes

Padmalosini Muthukumaran, Chwee Teck Lim, Taeyong Lee

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Estrogen is known to have a direct effect on bone forming osteoblasts and bone resorbing osteoclasts. The cellular and molecular effects of estrogen on osteoblasts and osteoblasts-like cells have been extensively studied. However, the effect of estrogen on the mechanical property of osteoblasts has not been studied yet. It is important since mechanical property of the mechanosensory osteoblasts could be pivotal to its functionality in bone remodeling. This is the first study aimed to assess the direct effect of estradiol on the apparent elastic modulus (E*) and corresponding cytoskeletal changes of human fetal osteoblasts (hFOB 1.19). The cells were cultured in either medium alone or medium supplemented with β-estradiol and then subjected to Atomic Force Microscopy indentation (AFM) to determine E*. The underlying changes in cytoskeleton were studied by staining the cells with TRITC-Phalloidin. Following estradiol treatment, the cells were also tested for proliferation, alkaline phosphatase activity and mineralization. With estradiol treatment, E* of osteoblasts significantly decreased by 43-46%. The confocal images showed that the changes in f-actin network observed in estradiol treated cells can give rise to the changes in the stiffness of the cells. Estradiol also increases the inherent alkaline phosphatase activity of the cells. Estradiol induced stiffness changes of osteoblasts were not associated with changes in the synthesized mineralized matrix of the cells. Thus, a decrease in osteoblast stiffness with estrogen treatment was demonstrated in this study, with positive links to cytoskeletal changes. The estradiol associated changes in osteoblast mechanical properties could bear implications for bone remodeling and its mechanical integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-508
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Medical Research Funding (NMRC #R397-000-059-213) from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Singapore. The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Zhang Shaoping for technical support in atomic force microscopy.


  • Actin cytoskeleton
  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Elastic modulus
  • HFOB 1.19
  • β-Estradiol


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