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Endocrinology. 2000 Sep;141(9):3149-55.

Dietary protein restriction lowers plasma insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), impairs cortical bone formation, and induces osteoblastic resistance to IGF-I in adult female rats.

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World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Osteoporosis and Bone Diseases, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.


Dietary protein deficiency, common in elderly, is associated with decreased areal bone mineral density and plasma insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). To investigate the early adaptation of bone cells to protein restriction, 6-month-old female rats were pair-fed with isocaloric 15% (control) or 2.5% casein diets for 14 days. Animals were then treated daily with rhIGF-I/IGFBP-3 (1:4, 2.5 mg IGF-I/kg BW) or with vehicle for 10 days. After double-labeling, proximal metaphysis and mid-diaphysis of the tibia were analyzed histomorphometrically. Plasma osteocalcin, IGF-I, and urinary deoxypyridinoline were quantified. After 14 days of protein restriction, significant drops in plasma osteocalcin (13%) and IGF-I (37%), in periosteal formation (83%) and mineral apposition (49%) rates are observed, indicating a decreased osteoblast recruitment and activity. In cancellous bone, a significant decrease in active eroded surfaces (27%) and osteoclast number (24%) indicates a transient depression of resorption. In rats fed the 15% casein diet, rhIGF-I/IGFBP-3 increases cancellous (42%) and periosteal (600%) formation rates, indicating an increased osteoblast recruitment. In protein-restricted rats, rhIGF-I/IGFBP-3 fails to increase cancellous or periosteal bone formation and plasma osteocalcin is significantly lower than in 15% casein+rhIGF-I/ IGFBP-3 rats. Protein restriction induces osteoblast resistance to rhIGF-I/IGFBP-3 in both bone envelopes. Low plasma IGF-I and osteoblast resistance to IGF-I, may contribute to the impaired periosteal formation.

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