The synthesis of type I collagen, the main component of bone matrix, precedes the expression of Runx2, the earliest determinant of osteoblast differentiation. We hypothesized that the energetic needs of osteoblasts might explain this apparent paradox. We show here that glucose, the main nutrient of osteoblasts, is transported in these cells through Glut1, whose expression precedes that of Runx2. Glucose uptake favors osteoblast differentiation by suppressing the AMPK-dependent proteasomal degradation of Runx2 and promotes bone formation by inhibiting another function of AMPK. While RUNX2 cannot induce osteoblast differentiation when glucose uptake is compromised, raising blood glucose levels restores collagen synthesis in Runx2-null osteoblasts and initiates bone formation in Runx2-deficient embryos. Moreover, RUNX2 favors Glut1 expression, and this feedforward regulation between RUNX2 and Glut1 determines the onset of osteoblast differentiation during development and the extent of bone formation throughout life. These results reveal an unexpected intricacy between bone and glucose metabolism.
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