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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Dec 16;338(2):710-6. Epub 2005 Oct 11.

Osteoclasts but not osteoblasts are affected by a calcified surface treated with zoledronic acid in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Research and Biotechnology, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia.


Bisphosphonates are potent inhibitors of osteoclast-mediated bone resorption. Recent interest has centered on the effects of bisphosphonates on osteoblasts. Chronic dosing of osteoblasts with solubilized bisphosphonates has been reported to enhance osteogenesis and mineralization in vitro. However, this methodology poorly reflects the in vivo situation, where free bisphosphonate becomes rapidly bound to mineralized bone surfaces. To establish a more clinically relevant cell culture model, we cultured bone cells on calcium phosphate coated quartz discs pre-treated with the potent nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate, zoledronic acid (ZA). Binding studies utilizing [(14)C]-labeled ZA confirmed that the bisphosphonate bound in a concentration-dependent manner over the 1-50microM dose range. When grown on ZA-treated discs, the viability of bone-marrow derived osteoclasts was greatly reduced, while the viability and mineralization of the osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cell line were largely unaffected. This suggests that only bone resorbing cells are affected by bound bisphosphonate. However, this system does not account for transient exposure to unbound bisphosphonate in the hours following a clinical dosing. To model this event, we transiently treated osteoblasts with ZA in the absence of a calcified surface. Osteoblasts proved highly resistant to all transitory treatment regimes, even when utilizing ZA concentrations that prevented mineralization and/or induced cell death when dosed chronically. This study represents a pharmacologically more relevant approach to modeling bisphosphonate treatment on cultured bone cells and implies that bisphosphonate therapies may not directly affect osteoblasts at bone surfaces.

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