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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Apr 15;94(8):4199-204.

Estrogen regulates the rate of bone turnover but bone balance in ovariectomized rats is modulated by prevailing mechanical strain.

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Department of Orthopedics, Mayo Foundation, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
U FL, Gainesville
Mayo Foundation, Rochester MN


Estrogen deficiency induced bone loss is associated with increased bone turnover in rats and humans. The respective roles of increased bone turnover and altered balance between bone formation and bone resorption in mediating estrogen deficiency-induced cancellous bone loss was investigated in ovariectomized rats. Ovariectomy resulted in increased bone turnover in the distal femur. However, cancellous bone was preferentially lost in the metaphysis, a site that normally experiences low strain energy. No bone loss was observed in the epiphysis, a site experiencing higher strain energy. The role of mechanical strain in maintaining bone balance was investigated by altering the strain history. Mechanical strain was increased and decreased in long bones of ovariectomized rats by treadmill exercise and functional unloading, respectively. Functional unloading was achieved during orbital spaceflight and following unilateral sciatic neurotomy. Increasing mechanical loading reduced bone loss in the metaphysis. In contrast, decreasing loading accentuated bone loss in the metaphysis and resulted in bone loss in the epiphysis. Finally, administration of estrogen to ovariectomized rats reduced bone loss in the unloaded and prevented loss in the loaded limb following unilateral sciatic neurotomy in part by reducing indices of bone turnover. These results suggest that estrogen regulates the rate of bone turnover, but the overall balance between bone formation and bone resorption is influenced by prevailing levels of mechanical strain.

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