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J Bone Miner Res. 1999 Dec;14(12):2137-42.

Evidence for a pathogenic role of nitric oxide in inflammation-induced osteoporosis.

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Department of Medicine, University of Aberdeen Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


Inflammatory disease is associated with increased production of nitric oxide (NO) and activation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) pathway. Several studies have addressed the role of NO as a mediator of cytokine effects on bone cell activity in vitro. Stimulatory and inhibitory actions have been found, however, depending on the concentrations produced and model system used. In view of this, it has been difficult to predict whether increased production of NO during inflammation is likely to increase bone loss or prevent it. We have investigated the pathogenic role of NO in an animal model of inflammation-induced osteoporosis (IMO). NO production was increased in IMO when compared with controls (+344%; p < 0.01), and this was accompanied by activation of inducible NOS (iNOS) in the bone marrow space. Bone mineral density (BMD) was reduced in IMO when compared with controls (-64%; p < 0.01), and this was found to be associated with reduced osteoblast numbers (-44%; p < 0.05) and increased osteoclast numbers (+38%; p < 0.01). The NOS inhibitor L-NMMA reversed the deleterious effects of IMO on bone mass and bone turnover, but L-NMMA had no effect on bone mass in control animals. This study has important implications for many inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and inflammatory bowel disease which are associated with increased NO production and osteoporosis. Our data not only suggest that iNOS activation and increased NO production contribute to the pathogenesis of osteoporosis in these situations, but also suggest that NOS inhibitors could be of therapeutic value in the prevention and treatment of such bone loss.

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