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Mol Pharmacol. 2006 May;69(5):1624-32. Epub 2006 Feb 24.

Cytosolic entry of bisphosphonate drugs requires acidification of vesicles after fluid-phase endocytosis.

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  • 1Bone Research Group, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, Institute of Medical Sciences, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB252ZD, UK.


Bisphosphonates such as alendronate and zoledronate are blockbuster drugs used to inhibit osteoclast-mediated bone resorption. Although the molecular mechanisms by which bisphosphonates affect osteoclasts are now evident, the exact route by which they are internalized by cells is not known. To clarify this, we synthesized a novel, fluorescently labeled analog of alendronate (AF-ALN). AF-ALN was rapidly internalized into intracellular vesicles in J774 macrophages and rabbit osteoclasts; uptake of AF-ALN or [14C]zoledronate was stimulated by the presence of Ca2+ and Sr2+ and could be inhibited by addition of EGTA or clodronate, both of which chelate calcium ions. Both EGTA and clodronate also prevented the bisphosphonate-induced inhibition of Rap1A prenylation, an effect that was reversed by addition of Ca2+. In J774 cells and osteoclasts, vesicular AF-ALN colocalized with dextran (but not wheat germ agglutinin or transferrin), and uptake of AF-ALN or [14C]zoledronate was inhibited by dansylcadaverine, indicating that fluid-phase endocytosis is involved in the initial internalization of bisphosphonate into vesicles. Endosomal acidification then seems to be absolutely required for exit of bisphosphonate from vesicles and entry into the cytosol, because monensin and bafilomycin A1, both inhibitors of endosomal acidification, did not inhibit vesicular uptake of AF-ALN or internalization of [14C]zoledronate but prevented the inhibitory effect of alendronate or zoledronate on Rap1A prenylation. Taken together, these results demonstrate that cellular uptake of bisphosphonate drugs requires fluid-phase endocytosis and is enhanced by Ca2+ ions, whereas transfer from endocytic vesicles into the cytosol requires endosomal acidification.

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