We have recently found that administration of oestradiol-17β (OE2) to rats stimulates trabecular bone formation. It is not known, however, whether oestrogen has a similar action on bone formation rate under physiological circumstances. Oestrogen is known to suppress bone resorption, and oestrogen-deficient states in the rat, as in humans, are associated with an increase in bone resorption that entrains an increase in bone formation. To see if the latter masks a relative reduction in bone formation, due to oestrogen deficiency, we measured bone formation very early after ovariectomy, before the resorption-induced increase in bone formation becomes established. To do this, rats were administered fluorochrome labels before and after ovariectomy, spaced at weekly intervals in the first, and 3-day intervals in the second experiment.
In both experiments there was a decrease in indices of bone formation in the labelling interval immediately following ovariectomy such that, using the shorter fluorochrome intervals, the mineral apposition rate fell to 69%, the double-labelled surface to 45%, and the bone formation rate to 36% of sham-ovariectomized levels. The reduction was not sustained in the subsequent label intervals, presumably masked by the increase in bone formation attributable to increased resorption. These results suggest that if bone formation is assessed before this resorption-entrained increase in bone formation occurs, oestrogen deficiency is associated with a reduction in dynamic indices of bone formation. Thus, these experiments suggest that oestrogen stimulates bone formation under physiological circumstances, and that the osteopaenia that follows oestrogen deficiency may be attributable not only to an increase in bone resorption, but also to a relative deficiency in bone formation.
Journal of Endocrinology (1994) 142, 119–125