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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Jun;83(6):2043-51.

In vitro secretion of cytokines by human bone marrow: effects of age and estrogen status.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


It has been proposed that cytokines mediate the acceleration of bone loss following menopause. Because of the intimate relationship between bone marrow stromal cells and bone tissue, it is possible that marrow cells and their products contribute to the bone microenvironment and influence the regulation of bone cell differentiation and activity. We examined the production of cytokines by bone marrow stromal cells from a total of 37 women and 15 men undergoing total hip replacement for noninflammatory joint disease. Low-density mononuclear cells were isolated from bone marrow and were cultured in phenol red-free alpha MEM medium supplemented with 10% FBS and antibiotics. Constitutive secretion of interleukin-6 (IL-6) was positively correlated with age in a series of 8 women and 5 men measured by bioassay (r = 0.98; P < 0.01) and in a series of 18 women and 10 men measured by immunoassay (r = 0.56; P < 0.01). The pattern of cytokine production by bone marrow stromal cells was examined in detail in 23 postmenopausal women, aged 49-88 yr. Basal secretion of immunoreactive IL-6 and IL-11, but not granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, increased with time in culture. Exogenous IL-1 beta stimulated secretion of IL-6 and IL-11 in a saturable, dose-dependent manner. Secretion of soluble IL-6 receptor was not correlated with secretion of IL-6, either constitutively or in the presence of IL-1 beta. In 4 of 14 samples, IL-1 beta also stimulated secretion of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. IL-1 beta was undetectable in 7 of 9 cultures during the 2-week culture period. IL-6 did not stimulate secretion of IL-1 beta in the 7 cultures tested. Cells were dependent upon serum for viability and growth and were not sustained by a serum substitute (1% insulin-transferrin-selenium-BSA). Cells grown in medium with 10% FBS and supplemented with 1% insulin-transferrin-selenium-BSA secreted 10-fold more IL-6 than cells grown in serum alone. Marrow from 7 women receiving estrogen replacement therapy showed lower constitutive secretion of IL-6 (75%; P < 0.006) and IL-11 (43%; P < 0.05) than marrow from age-matched controls and had blunted stimulation of IL-6 and IL-11 secretion by exogenous IL-1 beta. These data indicate distinct patterns of cytokine production by human marrow stromal cultures dependent upon age and estrogen status.

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