The skeleton is a dynamic tissue continuously adapting to mechanical stimuli. Although matrix‐embedded osteocytes are considered as the key mechanoresponsive bone cells, all other skeletal cell types are principally exposed to macroenvironmental and microenvironmental mechanical influences that could potentially affect their activities. It was recently reported that Piezo1, one of the two mechanically activated ion channels of the Piezo family, functions as a mechanosensor in osteoblasts and osteocytes. Here we show that Piezo1 additionally plays a critical role in the process of endochondral bone formation. More specifically, by targeted deletion of Piezo1 or Piezo2 in either osteoblast (Runx2Cre) or osteoclast lineage cells (Lyz2Cre), we observed severe osteoporosis with numerous spontaneous fractures specifically in Piezo1Runx2Cre mice. This phenotype developed at an early postnatal stage and primarily affected the formation of the secondary spongiosa. The presumptive Piezo1Runx2Cre osteoblasts in this region displayed an unusual flattened appearance and were positive for type X collagen. Moreover, transcriptome analyses of primary osteoblasts identified an unexpected induction of chondrocyte‐related genes in Piezo1Runx2Cre cultures. Because Runx2 is not only expressed in osteoblast progenitor cells, but also in prehypertrophic chondrocytes, these data suggested that Piezo1 functions in growth plate chondrocytes to ensure trabecular bone formation in the process of endochondral ossification. To confirm this hypothesis, we generated mice with Piezo1 deletion in chondrocytes (Col2a1Cre). These mice essentially recapitulated the phenotype of Piezo1Runx2Cre animals, because they displayed early‐onset osteoporosis with multiple fractures, as well as impaired formation of the secondary spongiosa with abnormal osteoblast morphology. Our data identify a previously unrecognized key function of Piezo1 in endochondral ossification, which, together with its role in bone remodeling, suggests that Piezo1 represents an attractive target for the treatment of skeletal disorders.
CHONDROCYTE; ENDOCHONDRAL OSSIFICATION; MECHANOSENSATION; OSTEOBLAST; PIEZO1