Nitric oxide (NO) is a mediator of bone metabolism and its production is under the control of gender hormones in several cell types or tissues. Changes in endogenous NO production, measured as plasma nitrate+nitrite levels, may therefore contribute to ovariectomy (OVX)-induced bone loss. We studied plasma nitrate+nitrite levels and trabecular bone mineral density (TBMD) 4 weeks after sham-operation or OVX in rats receiving various hormonal treatments. OVX decreased plasma nitrate+nitrite levels significantly and this was accompanied by a significant decrease in TBMD. Treatment with oral ethinyl oestradiol (EE) and subcutaneous 17beta-oestradiol dose-dependently prevented the decrease in plasma nitrate+nitrite levels after OVX, but treatment with oral 17beta-oestradiol did not. Oestrogen treatment, 17beta-oestradiol (s. c. or orally) or EE (orally), prevented the OVX-induced decrease in TBMD. Treatment of sham-operated rats with the anti-oestrogen ICI164, 384 induced a significant decrease in TBMD that corresponded to 54% of the decrease observed after OVX, but did not affect plasma nitrate+nitrite levels. Treatment of ovariectomized rats with Org 2058, a pure progestagen, did not prevent bone loss, but prevented the decrease in plasma nitrate+nitrite levels dose-dependently. Treatment with tibolone, a synthetic steroid with combined weak oestrogenic, progestagenic, and androgenic properties, or with progestagen in combination with EE completely prevented bone loss after OVX. These treatments, however, only partly prevented the OVX-induced decrease in plasma nitrate+nitrite levels. In conclusion, OVX decreased both TBMD and plasma nitrate+nitrite levels. Although plasma nitrate+nitrite levels were under the control of both oestrogen and progesterone, TBMD was affected by oestrogen only. Decreased systemic production of NO is, therefore, not involved in OVX-induced bone loss in rats.
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