Effects on bone by the light/dark cycle and chronic treatment with melatonin and/or hormone replacement therapy in intact female mice


Address reprints requests to Paula A. Witt-Enderby, PhD, Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, USA.
E-mail: wittp@duq.edu


Abstract:  In this study, the effects of the light/dark cycle, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and nocturnal melatonin supplementation on osteogenic markers and serum melatonin levels were examined in a blind mouse model (MMTV-Neu transgenic mice). Melatonin levels in this mouse strain (FVB/N) with retinal degeneration (rd−/−) fluctuate in a diurnal manner, suggesting that these mice, although blind, still perceive light. Real-time RT-PCR analyses demonstrated that Runx2, Bmp2, Bmp6, Bglap, and Per2 mRNA levels coincide with melatonin levels. The effect of chronic HRT (0.5 mg 17β-estradiol + 50 mg progesterone in 1800 kcal of diet) alone and in combination with melatonin (15 mg/L drinking water) on bone quality and density was also assessed by histomorphometry and microcomputed tomography, respectively. Bone density was significantly increased (P < 0.05) after 1 yr of treatment with the individual therapies, HRT (22% increase) and nocturnal melatonin (20% increase) compared to control. Hormone replacement therapy alone also increased surface bone, decreased trabecular space, and decreased the number of osteoclasts without affecting osteoblast numbers compared to the control group (P < 0.05). Chronic HRT + melatonin therapy did not significantly increase bone density, even though this combination significantly increased Bglap mRNA levels. These data suggest that the endogenous melatonin rhythm modulates markers important to bone physiology. Hormone replacement therapy with or without nocturnal melatonin in cycling mice produces unique effects on bone markers and bone density. The effects of these therapies alone and combined may improve bone health in women in perimenopause and with low nocturnal melatonin levels from too little sleep, too much light, or age.