Ghrelin protects against depleted uranium-induced bone damage by increasing osteoprotegerin/RANKL ratio

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Abstract

Depleted uranium (DU) is widely used in military and civil activities, and bone is the main target organ of chronic DU toxicity. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of ghrelin on rats implanted with DU and explore the underlying mechanisms. The results showed that ghrelin could increase the expression of ghrelin receptor in bone tissue, thus alleviate the apoptosis of bone tissue after 3 months of 0.3 g DU embedded in the tibia. Micro-computed tomography examination showed that after DU implantation, the density of cortical bone showed no significant difference, but the trabecular bone decreased in amount, density and connectivity. Ghrelin treatment can significantly reduce the changes caused by DU. Moreover, ghrelin can inhibit the increase of serum tartrate resistant acid phosphatase and the decrease of alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin. Furthermore, ghrelin can also significantly reduce the receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL) and phosphorylated p38-MAPK expression, and increase the level of osteoprotegerin (OPG) in tissues after exposure to DU. Based on cell experimental research, p38-MAPK specific agonist can reverse the function of ghrelin, significantly inhibit the level of OPG and increase the level of RANKL. On the contrary, the use of p38-MAPK specific inhibitor or p38-MAPK siRNA can enhance the function of ghrelin. These results suggest that ghrelin may inhibit p38 MAPK activation induced by DU, and increase the OPG/RANKL ratio caused by DU exposure, hence alleviating the bone damage caused by long-term DU exposure.

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