RANKL Inhibitors Induce Osteonecrosis of the Jaw in Mice With Periapical Disease


Address correspondence to: Sotirios Tetradis, DDS, PhD, Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences, UCLA School of Dentistry, 10833 Le Conte Ave., CHS Rm. 53-068, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1668, USA. E-mail: stetradis@dentistry.ucla.edu


Antiresorptive medications are essential in treating diseases of pathologic osteoclastic bone resorption, including bone cancer and osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates (BPs) are the most commonly used antiresorptives in clinical practice. Although inhibition of bone resorption is important in regulating unwanted malignant and metabolic osteolysis, BP treatment is associated with potential side effects, including osteonecrosis of the jaws (ONJ). Recently, non-BP antiresorptive medications targeting osteoclastic function and differentiation, such as denosumab, have entered the clinical arena. Denosumab treatment results in a similar rate of ONJ as BPs. Animal models of ONJ, using high-dose BP treatment in combination with tooth extraction or dental disease, provide valuable tools and insight in exploring ONJ pathophysiology. However, the ability of other antiresorptives to induce ONJ-like lesions in animal models has not been explored. Such studies would be beneficial in providing support for the role of osteoclast inhibition in ONJ pathogenesis versus a direct BP effect on oral tissues. Here, we tested the ability of the receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL) inhibitors RANK-Fc (composed of the extracellular domain of RANK fused to the fragment crystallizable [Fc] portion of immunoglobulin G [IgG]) and OPG-Fc (composed of the RANKL-binding domains of osteoprotegerin [OPG] linked to the Fc portion of IgG) to induce ONJ in mice in the presence of periapical disease, but in the absence of dental extractions. We demonstrate radiographic evidence of ONJ in RANK-Fc–treated and OPG-Fc–treated mice, including inhibition of bone loss, increased bone density, lamina dura thickening, and periosteal bone deposition. These findings closely resembled the radiographic appearance of an ONJ patient on denosumab treatment. Histologic examination revealed that RANK-Fc treatment and OPG-Fc treatment resulted in absence of osteoclasts, periosteal bone formation, empty osteocytic lacunae, osteonecrosis, and bone exposure. In conclusion, we have successfully induced ONJ in mice with periapical disease, using potent osteoclast inhibitors other than BPs. Our findings, coupled with ONJ animal models using high-dose BPs, suggest that osteoclast inhibition is pivotal to the pathogenesis of ONJ. © 2014 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.