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Cancer Res. 2000 Nov 1;60(21):6001-7.

Bisphosphonates directly regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and gene expression in human osteoblasts.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecullar Biology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Bisphosphonates are widely used clinically to treat bone diseases in which bone resorption is in excess. However, the mechanism of bisphosphonate action on bone is not fully understood. Studies of direct action of bisphosphonates on bone have been limited mainly to their effects on bone-resorbing osteoclast cells, with implications that some activity may be mediated indirectly through paracrine factors produced by the bone-forming osteoblast cells. Little is known about the direct effects of bisphosphonates on osteoblasts. In this report, the direct actions of several bisphosphonates on cell proliferation, gene expression, and bone formation by cultured human fetal osteoblasts were examined. Osteoblast cell proliferation was decreased, and cytodifferentiation was increased in a dose-dependent manner in cultures treated with the bisphosphonate pamidronate. In addition, pamidronate treatment increased total cellular protein, alkaline phosphatase activity, and type I collagen secretion in osteoblasts. Consistent with the above-mentioned findings, the rate of bone formation was also increased in osteoblasts cultured with pamidronate. The actions of two other bisphosphonates, the weak-acting etidronate and the potent new analogue zoledronate, were also compared with the action of pamidronate on proliferation of immortalized human fetal osteoblast (hFOB) cells and rate of bone formation. Pamidronate and zoledronate decreased hFOB cell proliferation with equal potency, whereas etidronate decreased proliferation only at much higher concentrations. Studies comparing EDTA and etidronate indicate that etidronate may act indirectly on the hFOB cells by reducing free divalent ion concentrations, whereas pamidronate and zoledronate appear to act on the hFOB cells by a direct action. Both pamidronate and zoledronate increase hFOB cell bone formation, whereas no increase is observed with etidronate and EDTA. Taken together, these observations strongly suggest that treatment with pamidronate or zoledronate enhances the differentiation and bone-forming activities of osteoblasts.

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