The Estrogen Receptor's Involvement in Osteoblasts' Adaptive Response to Mechanical Strain

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The estrogen receptor's role in bone cells' response to mechanical strain was investigated by studying the effect of the estrogen receptor modulators ICI 182, 780 and tamoxifen on the proliferation of primary cultures of rat long bone-derived osteoblasts stimulated by the independent and combined effects of 17β-estradiol, mechanical strain, and the mitogens basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), truncated insulin-like growth factor (tIGF)-I and tIGF-II, and epidermal growth factor (EGF). 17β-estradiol (10−10 M to 10−8 M) increased [3H]thymidine incorporation equally in cells from males and females, as did a single period of cyclical strain in the plastic strips onto which the cells had been seeded (peak strain 3,400 με, 600 cycles, 1 Hz). At 10−8 M, neither ICI 182,780 nor tamoxifen had any effect on basal [3H]thymidine incorporation in these cells, but both compounds prevented their proliferative responses to 10−8 M 17β-estradiol. Tamoxifen eliminated and ICI 182,780 substantially reduced the proliferation stimulated by strain. 17β-estradiol partially rescued the strain-related response from the effect of tamoxifen but not that of ICI 182,780. Both tamoxifen and ICI 182,780 reduced proliferation stimulated by 10−8 M EGF but had no effect on that by 10−7 M bFGF or tIGF-I and tIGF-II. That both ICI 182,780 and tamoxifen, which in other tissues act as estrogen antagonists, should reduce osteoblast proliferation stimulated by 17β-estradiol and EGF, but not that by FGF or the IGFs, was expected since the mitogenic effects of estrogen and EGF involve the estrogen receptor, whereas those of FGF and the IGFs do not. That these compounds should prevent osteoblasts' proliferative response to strain suggests that strain also stimulates mitogenesis by a mechanism involving the estrogen receptor. If this is so, bones' reduced ability to maintain their structural strength after the menopause could be explained by less effective strain-related (re)modeling when estrogen is absent and, among other changes, the estrogen receptor could be down-regulated.

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