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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1991 Apr 1;88(7):2936-40.

Osteoclastic inhibition: an action of nitric oxide not mediated by cyclic GMP.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Chemical Pathology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, United Kingdom.


The osteoclast is unique in its ability to resorb bone, and excessive osteoclastic activity has been implicated in osteoporosis, Paget disease of bone, rheumatoid arthritis, and the growth of metastases in bone. The activity of this cell is controlled by the main circulating inhibitor, calcitonin, in association with locally produced modulators. We show that nitric oxide (NO) may be an important member of the latter group. NO is produced by the vascular endothelium and nervous system and is involved in both neurotransmission and the regulation of blood pressure. However, our results show that the autocoid is also a potent inhibitor of osteoclast function. NO (30 microM) produced a decrease to approximately 50% of the original osteoclast spread area. Similar effects were also produced by 3-morpholinosydnonimine or sodium nitroprusside, reagents that spontaneously release NO. These shape changes were associated with a reduction of bone resorption after a 24-hr incubation of isolated osteoclasts on devitalized bone slices. NO is thought to act by stimulating guanylate cyclase, with a consequent increase in cyclic GMP, but a different mode of action is likely in the osteoclast since dibutyryl or 8-bromo cyclic GMP have no effect. It should be noted that calcitonin can produce similar changes in shape and activity but is associated with an increase in osteoclast intracellular calcium and cessation of membrane movement; neither of these is produced by NO, suggesting that its mode of action is different. The abundance of NO-producing endothelial cells in bone marrow and their proximity to osteoclasts suggests that marrow endothelial cells may play a physiological role in the regulation of osteoclastic activity.

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