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We hypothesized that bone evolved, in part, to enhance the ability of bony vertebrates to escape danger in the wild. In support of this notion, we show here that a bone-derived signal is necessary to develop an acute stress response (ASR). Indeed, exposure to various types of stressors in mice, rats (rodents), and humans leads to a rapid and selective surge of circulating bioactive osteocalcin because stressors favor the uptake by osteoblasts of glutamate, which prevents inactivation of osteocalcin prior to its secretion. Osteocalcin permits manifestations of the ASR to unfold by signaling in post-synaptic parasympathetic neurons to inhibit their activity, thereby leaving the sympathetic tone unopposed. Like wild-type animals, adrenalectomized rodents and adrenal-insufficient patients can develop an ASR, and genetic studies suggest that this is due to their high circulating osteocalcin levels. We propose that osteocalcin defines a bony-vertebrate-specific endocrine mediation of the ASR.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Metab

Publication Date





890 - 902.e8


Glast, Vglut2, adrenal, bone, fight or flight, glutamate, osteoblast, osteocalcin, parasympathetic, stress response