BACKGROUND - Although the role of the osteoclast in bone resorption is becoming better understood, much remains to be learned about osteoclastogenesis and the exact mechanism of action of anti-resorbing agents such as 17beta-estradiol. This study investigated bone and morphologic osteoclast alterations following long-term estrogen administration to the B6D2F1 mouse. B6D2F1 mice aged 4-5 weeks were exposed to high levels of estrogen via implanted silastic tubing for at least 12 weeks; controls received empty tubing. Femurs of control and treated mice were assessed with radiology, quantitative histomorphometry and transmission electron microscopy.
RESULTS - After 8 weeks of treatment, there was radiologic evidence of severe osteosclerosis and 86% of femoral marrow space was replaced with bone. After 12 weeks histologic studies of treated animals revealed that osteoclasts were positive for tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase but showed markedly abnormal ultrastructure which prevented successful bone resorption.
CONCLUSIONS - Findings extend our understanding of osteoclast structure and function in the mouse exposed in vivo to high doses of estrogen. Ultrastructural examination showed that osteoclasts from estrogen-treated mice were unable to seal against the bone surface and were unable to form ruffled borders.