Bisphosphonates impair the onset of bone formation at remodeling sites

Pia Rosgaard Jensen, Thomas Levin Andersen, Pascale Chavassieux, Jean Paul Roux, Jean Marie Delaisse*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Bisphosphonates are widely used anti-osteoporotic drugs targeting osteoclasts. They strongly inhibit bone resorption, but also strongly reduce bone formation. This reduced formation is commonly ascribed to the mechanism maintaining the resorption/formation balance during remodeling. The present study provides evidence for an additional mechanism where bisphosphonates actually impair the onset of bone formation after resorption. The evidence is based on morphometric parameters recently developed to assess the activities reversing resorption to formation. Herein, we compare these parameters in cancellous bone of alendronate- and placebo-treated postmenopausal osteoporotic patients. Alendronate increases the prevalence of eroded surfaces characterized by reversal cells/osteoprogenitors at low cell density and remote from active bone surfaces. This indicates deficient cell expansion on eroded surfaces – an event that is indispensable to start formation. Furthermore, alendronate decreases the coverage of these eroded surfaces by remodeling compartment canopies, a putative source of reversal cells/osteoprogenitors. Finally, alendronate strongly decreases the activation frequency of bone formation, and decreases more the formative compared to the eroded surfaces. All these parameters correlate with each other. These observations lead to a model where bisphosphonates hamper the osteoprogenitor recruitment required to initiate bone formation. This effect results in a larger eroded surface, thereby explaining the well-known paradox that bisphosphonates strongly inhibit bone resorption without strongly decreasing eroded surfaces. The possible mechanism for hampered osteoprogenitor recruitment is discussed: bisphosphonates may decrease the release of osteogenic factors by the osteoclasts, and/or bisphosphonates released by osteoclasts may act directly on neighboring osteoprogenitor cells as reported in preclinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115850
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Anti-resorptives
  • Bone remodeling
  • Human bone histomorphometry
  • Osteoblasts
  • Osteoporosis


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