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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1992 May;74(5):1146-51.

Serum osteocalcin is increased in patients with osteomalacia: correlations with biochemical and histomorphometric findings.

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Unité Inserm 234, Hopital Edouard Herriot, Lyon, France.


The synthesis of osteocalcin or bone gla protein by osteoblasts is markedly stimulated by 1,25-(OH)2D, a key hormone in the regulation of bone mineralization. The circulating levels of osteocalcin have been shown to reflect both the osteoid matrix production and the formation rate of mineralized bone in several metabolic bone diseases (osteoporosis, thyrotoxicosis, primary hyperparathyroidism) in which both mechanisms are tightly coupled because of the absence of mineralization defect. In this study, we measured in 12 patients (7 women, 5 men, 56 +/- 15 yr old) with untreated osteomalacia serum osteocalcin and vitamin D metabolites (25OHD and 1,25-(OH)2D). The results were correlated with biochemical and histomorphometric assessment of bone remodeling. Osteomalacia was due to vitamin D deficiency (5 cases), to vitamin D malabsorption (6 cases), and to hypophosphataemia in 1 case. When compared to control values, serum osteocalcin was increased in patients with osteomalacia (7.4 +/- 4 vs. 3.7 +/- 1.3 ng/mL; P less than 0.001) and was positively correlated with serum alkaline phosphatase (r = 0.65; P = 0.03) and negatively with 25 OHD (r = -0.61; P = 0.04). Serum osteocalcin was not correlated with 1,25-(OH)2D [r = -0.45; not significant (NS)] even after exclusion of the patient with hypophosphataemia. Serum osteocalcin was positively correlated with the osteoid volume and osteoid perimeter (r = 0.71 and 0.69 respectively; P less than 0.01) but not with any of the tetracycline-based parameter of bone mineralization at the tissue level (r ranging from -0.41 to +0.42, NS). Serum 25 OHD, but not 1,25-(OH)2D, was positively correlated with the mineralization rate (r = 0.59; P less than 0.05 and r = 0.54; NS). We conclude that in patients with osteomalacia, a condition which is characterized by an increased osteoid accumulation due to a decreased mineralization rate, the increased level of serum osteocalcin reflects the increased osteoid synthesis but not the mineralization defect. In this disease, serum osteocalcin is inversely correlated to the severity of vitamin D deficiency reflected by serum 25 OHD, but not to the serum levels of 1,25-(OH)2D.

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