Bone loss due to smoking represents a major risk factor for fractures and bone osteoporosis. Signaling through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and its ligands contributes to both bone homeostasis and inflammatory diseases. It remains unclear whether the same AhR signaling axis affects the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The aim of this study was to investigate possible mechanisms which mediate bone loss in the TMJ due to smoking. In particular, whether benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), a carcinogen of tobacco smoke, induces expression of the AhR target gene, Cyp1a1, in mandibular condyles. Possible functions of an endogenous ligand of FICZ, were also investigated in a TMJ-osteoarthritis (OA) mouse model. B[a]P was administered orally to wild-type and AhR−/− mice and bone metabolism was subsequently examined. TMJ-OA was induced in wild-type mice with forceful opening of the mouth. Therapeutic functions of FICZ were detected with μCT and histology. Exposure to B[a]P accelerated bone loss in the mandibular subchondral bone. This bone loss manifested with osteoclastic bone resorption and upregulated expression of Cyp1a1 in an AhR-dependent manner. In a mouse model of TMJ-OA, FICZ exhibited a dose-dependent rescue of mandibular subchondral bone loss by repressing osteoclast activity. Meanwhile, in vitro, pre-treatment with FICZ reduced RANKL-mediated osteoclastogenesis. B[a]P regulates mandibular subchondral bone metabolism via the Cyp1a1. The AhR ligand, FICZ, can prevent TMJ-OA by regulating osteoclast differentiation.
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