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Int J Mol Sci. 2008 May;9(5):698-718. Epub 2008 May 8.

Caffeine induces cell death via activation of apoptotic signal and inactivation of survival signal in human osteoblasts.

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  • 1Department of Bioscience Technology and Center for Nanotechnology, Chung Yuan Christian University, Chung Li, Taiwan.


Caffeine consumption is a risk factor for osteoporosis, but the precise regulatory mechanisms are currently unknown. Here, we show that cell viability decreases in osteoblasts treated with caffeine in a dose-dependent manner. This cell death is attributed primarily to apoptosis and to a smaller extent, necrosis. Moreover, caffeine directly stimulates intracellular oxidative stress. Our data support caffeine-induced apoptosis in osteoblasts via a mitochondria-dependent pathway. The apoptotic biochemical changes were effectively prevented upon pretreatment with ROS scavengers, indicating that ROS plays a critical role as an upstream controller in the caffeine-induced apoptotic cascade. Additionally, p21-activated protein kinase 2 (PAK2) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) were activated in caffeine-treated osteoblasts. Experiments further found that PAK2 activity is required for caffeine-induced JNK activation and apoptosis. Importantly, our data also show that caffeine triggers cell death via inactivation of the survival signal, including the ERK- and Akt-mediated anti-apoptotic pathways. Finally, exposure of rats to dietary water containing approximately 10-20 microM caffeine led to bone mineral density loss. These results demonstrate for the first time that caffeine triggers apoptosis in osteoblasts via activation of mitochondria-dependent cell death signaling and inactivation of the survival signal, and causes bone mineral density loss in vivo.


ROS; apoptosis; caffeine; necrosis; osteoporosis

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