Osteoporosis is a common bone disease characterized by reduced bone and increased risk of fracture. In postmenopausal women, osteoporosis results from bone loss attributable to estrogen deficiency. Osteoclast differentiation and activation is mediated by receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL), its receptor receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB (RANK), and a decoy receptor for RANKL, osteoprotegerin (OPG). The OPG/RANKL/RANK system plays a pivotal role in osteoclast biology. Currently, a fully human anti-RANKL monoclonal antibody named denosumab is being clinically used for the treatment of osteoporosis and cancer-related bone disorders. This review describes recent advances in RANKL-related research, a story from bench to bedside. First, the discovery of the key factors, OPG/RANKL/RANK, revealed the molecular mechanism of osteoclastogenesis. Second, we established three animal models: (1) a novel and rapid bone loss model by administration of glutathione-S transferase-RANKL fusion protein to mice; (2) a novel mouse model of hypercalcemia with anorexia by overexpression of soluble RANKL using an adenovirus vector; and (3) a novel mouse model of osteopetrosis by administration of a denosumab-like anti-mouse RANKL neutralizing monoclonal antibody. Lastly, anti-human RANKL monoclonal antibody has been successfully applied to the treatment of osteoporosis and cancer-related bone disorders in many countries. This is a real example of applying basic science to clinical practice.

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