The nitrogen-containing bisphosphonate, zoledronic acid, increases mineralisation of human bone-derived cells in vitro

Beiqing Pan, Luen Bik To, Amanda N. Farrugia, David M. Findlay, Jonathan Green, Stan Gronthos, Andreas Evdokiou, Kevin Lynch, Gerald J. Atkins, Andrew C W Zannettino

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91 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have attributed the increase in bone mass observed following bisphophonate (BP) therapy to their effects on bone-resorbing osteoclasts (OCs). However, recent evidence suggests that BPs can also act directly on bone forming osteoblasts (OBs) to increase their anabolic activity. Using an established model of in vitro OB differentiation, we found that the potent nitrogen-containing BP, zoledronic acid (ZOL), may enhance the bone forming potential of human adult OB-like cells in vitro by inducing their differentiation. ZOL dose dependently induced both cytostasis and cell death in OB-like cells at concentrations of 0.5 μM or greater. Cells expressing high levels of the osteoprogenitor antigen, STRO-1, exhibited a greater proliferative potential than STRO-1negative/dim cells, and were more susceptible to the cytostatic and apoptotic effects of ZOL. ZOL was also found to promote bone cell differentiation, as evidenced by an increase in the number of cells exhibiting a more differentiated (STRO-1-/AP+ and STRO-1-/AP-) phenotype. Analysis of gene expression, using semi-quantitative RT-PCR, demonstrated that ZOL treatment resulted in a significant upregulation of osteocalcin (OCN) and bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) gene expression. Furthermore, in vitro mineralisation studies revealed that ZOL enhanced mineralised matrix formation at concentrations between 5 and 25 μM. These results show that, in addition to its direct effects on OCs, ZOL also directly affects the proliferation and differentiation of human OB-like cells in vitro and may enhance bone formation in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-123
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jan 2004


  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Bisphosphonates
  • Bone mineralisation
  • Osteoblast-like cells
  • STRO-1
  • ZOL
  • Zoledronic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Histology

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