Molecular Endocrinology and Musculoskeletal Research Group

Research Overview

We are studying the biological mechanisms underlying osteoporosis, muscle wasting and obesity, which are all disorders of hormonal action.  Osteoporosis affects one in two women and one in three men over the age of 60, leading to bone fractures; muscle wasting is a significant problem in the elderly population and in patients suffering cancer, burns and chronic illness; and obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in Western populations; and all these diseases cause significant morbidity in the population worldwide.

Our group is using unique and cutting-edge genetically modified mouse models to study the mechanisms involved in these diseases.  Our research combines the power of physiology and molecular biology to gain insight into the cellular and molecular pathways through which androgens and calcium-regulating hormones act. Knowledge gained from our research will help build Australia’s health research skills and will allow us to better understand the pathophysiology osteoporosis, muscle wasting and obesity, which is crucial to developing improved therapies for these diseases.

Current projects:

  • Characterising the physiological role of the calcitonin receptor in bone and calcium homeostasis.
  • Determining the mechanism by which the male sex hormone, testosterone, acts to decrease fat mass.
  • Investigating the neural mechanisms of androgen action in the regulation of the musculoskeletal system.

Read more about Rachel's work below:

  1. 'Hormones and Bones', A/Prof Rachel Davey discusses her research into metabolic bone diseases which has a focus on the physiological role of hormones to increase new bone growth.
  2. 'Hope for older men', A/Prof Rachel Davey presents her research into discovering a new pathway tor reduce weight gain in men with low testosterone levels.



  • Professor Jeffrey Zajac
  • Associate Professor Mathis Grossmann
  • Professor Howard Morris and A/Prof Paul Anderson, University of South Australia, SA, Australia
  • Professor David Findlay, Dept of Orthopaedics and Trauma, University of Adelaide, SA, Australia
  • Professor Gerald Atkins, Dept of Orthopaedics and Trauma, University of Adelaide, SA, Australia
  • Associate Professor Janine Danks, RMIT, VIC, Australia
  • Professor Dirk Vanderschueren, Leuven Catholic University, Belgium
  • Professor Jack Jhamandas, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Dr Joanne Pennock, University of Mancester, UK
  • Dr Svetlana Reilly, University of Oxford, UK
  • Professor Merry-Jo Oursler, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA
  • Professor Gerard Karsenty, Columbia Medical School, New York, USA
  • Professor Kristine Wiren, Oregon Health and Sciences University, Oregon, USA


  • NHMRC Project Grant, "The actions of the hormone, calcitonin, on bone and calcium metabolism."
  • Ian Potter Foundation, "Translation of bone biology research into better treatments for osteoporosis, cancer and arthritis."
  • Sir Edward Dunlop Medical Research Foundation, "Understanding the action of androgens to regulate fat mass."
  • Austin Medical Research Foundation Research Grant, "The action of sex hormones in the brain to control bone and muscle."
  • Rebecca Cooper Grant, "The action of the hormone, calcitonin, to regulate bone formation."

Research Outcomes

Research Publications

  • Davey RA and Grossmann M. Androgen receptor structure, function and biology: From bench to bedside. The Clinical Biochemist Reviews, 2016, 37(1):3-15.
  • Clarke MV, Russell PK, Findlay DM, Sastra S, Anderson PH, Skinner JP, Atkins GJ, Zajac JD, Davey RA. A role for the calcitonin receptor to limit bone loss during lactation in female mice by inhibiting osteocytic osteolysis. Endocrinology, 2015, 156(9):3203-3214.
  • Russell PK, Clarke MV, Cheong K, Anderson PH, Morris HA, Wiren KM, Zajac JD, Davey RA.  Androgen receptor action in osteoblasts in male mice is dependent on their stage of maturation. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2015, 30(5): 809-823.
  • Davey RA and Findlay DM.  Calcitonin – Physiology or Fantasy? Journal of Bone and Mineral Research Invited Review.  2013, 28(5):973-979.
  • Anderson PH, Turner AG, Davey RA, Kogawa M, Atkins GJ, Morris HA.  The pleiotropic effects of vitamin D in bone. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2013, 136: 190-194.
  • Russell PK, Clarke MV, Skinner JP, Pang TPS, Zajac JD, Davey RA. Identification of gene pathways altered by deletion of the androgen receptor specifically in mineralizing osteoblasts and osteocytes in mice. Journal of Molecular Endocrinology, 2012, 49(1): 1-10.
  • Davey RA, Clarke MV, Sastra S, Skinner JP, Chiang C, Anderson PH, Zajac JD. Decreased body weight in young Osterix-Cre transgenic mice results in delayed cortical bone expansion and accrual. Transgenic Research, 2012, 21(4):885-93.
  • Pang TPS, Clarke MV, Ghasem-Zadeh A, Lee NKL, Davey RA*, MacLean* (Equal senior authors). A physiological role for androgen actions in the absence of androgen receptor DNA binding activity. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, 2012, 348: 189-197.
  • Turner AG, Tjahyono F, Chiu WSM, Skinner J, Sawyer R, Moore AJ, Morris HA,
    Findlay DM, Zajac JD, Davey RA.  “The role of the calcitonin receptor in protecting against induced hypercalcemia is mediated via its actions in osteoclasts to inhibit bone resorption”.  Bone  2011, 48, 354-361.
  • MacLean HE, Moore AJ, Sastra SA, Morris HA, Ghasem-Zadeh A, Rana K, Axell AM, Notini AJ, Handelsman DJ, Seeman E, Zajac JD, Davey RA.  “DNA-binding-dependent androgen receptor signaling contributes to gender differences and has physiological actions in males and females”.  Journal of Endocrinology  2010, 206, 93-103.