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Bone strain magnitude is correlated with bone strain rate in tetrapods: implications for models of mechanotransduction Article uri icon


  • Aiello, B. R., Iriarte-Diaz, J., Blob, R. W., Butcher, M. T., Carrano, Matthew T., Espinoza, N. R., Main, R. P. and Ross, C. F.


  • Hypotheses suggest that structural integrity of vertebrate bones is maintained by controlling bone strain magnitude via adaptive modelling in response to mechanical stimuli. Increased tissue-level strain magnitude and rate have both been identified as potent stimuli leading to increased bone formation. Mechanotransduction models hypothesize that osteocytes sense bone deformation by detecting fluid flow-induced drag in the bone's lacunar–canalicular porosity. This model suggests that the osteocyte's intracellular response depends on fluid-flow rate, a product of bone strain rate and gradient, but does not provide a mechanism for detection of strain magnitude. Such a mechanism is necessary for bone modelling to adapt to loads, because strain magnitude is an important determinant of skeletal fracture. Using strain gauge data from the limb bones of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, we identified strong correlations between strain rate and magnitude across clades employing diverse locomotor styles and degrees of rhythmicity. The breadth of our sample suggests that this pattern is likely to be a common feature of tetrapod bone loading. Moreover, finding that bone strain magnitude is encoded in strain rate at the tissue level is consistent with the hypothesis that it might be encoded in fluid-flow rate at the cellular level, facilitating bone adaptation via mechanotransduction.

publication date

  • 2015