Bisphosphonates inhibit bone resorption in vivo and in vitro by unknown mechanisms. The effect of bisphosphonates on the formation of osteoclasts from their mononuclear hematopoietic precursors was investigated using human long-term marrow cultures in which multinucleated cells form that express most of the known features of the osteoclast phenotype (e.g., bone resorption, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase, calcitonin responsiveness, and reactivity with specific MAbs). The five bisphosphonates that were tested strongly inhibited 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3-stimulated formation of these cells with the same relative potencies as they inhibit bone resorption in vivo. Two representative compounds (3-amino-1-hydroxypropylidene-1,1-bisphosphonate and dichloromethylene bisphosphonate) failed to inhibit the proliferation of precursors of the osteoclast-like cells. However, these compounds decreased the proportion of mononuclear and multinucleated cells expressing an osteoclast antigen, thus suggesting a degree of specificity for cells of the osteoclast lineage. We conclude that bisphosphonates are potent inhibitors of osteoclast-like cell formation in long-term human marrow cultures, and that this may be related to their ability to inhibit bone resorption in vivo.


D E Hughes, B R MacDonald, R G Russell, M Gowen


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