Effects of bilirubin and sera from jaundiced patients on osteoblasts: Contribution to the development of osteoporosis in liver diseases

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Low bone formation is considered to be the main feature in osteoporosis associated with cholestatic and end-stage liver diseases, although the consequences of retained substances in chronic cholestasis on bone cells have scarcely been studied. Therefore, we analyzed the effects of bilirubin and serum from jaundiced patients on viability, differentiation, mineralization, and gene expression in the cells involved in bone formation. The experiments were performed in human primary osteoblasts and SAOS-2 human osteosarcoma cells. Unconjugated bilirubin or serum from jaundiced patients resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in osteoblast viability. Concentrations of bilirubin or jaundiced serum without effects on cell survival significantly diminished osteoblast differentiation. Mineralization was significantly reduced by exposure to 50 μM bilirubin at all time points (from −32% to −55%) and jaundiced sera resulted in a significant decrease on cell mineralization as well. Furthermore, bilirubin down-regulatedRUNX2(runt-related transcription factor 2) gene expression, a basic osteogenic factor involved in osteoblast differentiation, and serum from jaundiced patients significantly up-regulated theRANKL/OPG(receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand/osteoprotegerin) gene expression ratio, a system closely involved in osteoblast-induced osteoclastogenesis.


Besides decreased cell viability, unconjugated bilirubin and serum from jaundiced patients led to defective consequences on osteoblasts. Moreover, jaundiced serum up-regulates the system involved in osteoblast-induced osteoclastogenesis. These results support the deleterious consequences of increased bilirubin in advanced chronic cholestasis and in end-stage liver diseases, resulting in disturbed bone formation related to osteoblast dysfunction. (Hepatology 2011)

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