Denosumab, a Fully Human Monoclonal Antibody to RANKL, Inhibits Bone Resorption and Increases BMD in Knock-In Mice That Express Chimeric (Murine/Human) RANKL


  • Parts of this manuscript were presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, Nashville, TN, September 23–27, 2005.

  • All authors are regular full-time employees who may own stock and/or stock options in Amgen.


RANKL is a TNF family member that mediates osteoclast formation, activation, and survival by activating RANK. The proresorptive effects of RANKL are prevented by binding to its soluble inhibitor osteoprotegerin (OPG). Recombinant human OPG-Fc recognizes RANKL from multiple species and reduced bone resorption and increased bone volume, density, and strength in a number of rodent models of bone disease. The clinical development of OPG-Fc was discontinued in favor of denosumab, a fully human monoclonal antibody that specifically inhibits primate RANKL. Direct binding assays showed that denosumab bound to human RANKL but not to murine RANKL, human TRAIL, or other human TNF family members. Denosumab did not suppress bone resorption in normal mice or rats but did prevent the resorptive response in mice challenged with a human RANKL fragment encoded primarily by the fifth exon of the RANKL gene. To create mice that were responsive to denosumab, knock-in technology was used to replace exon 5 from murine RANKL with its human ortholog. The resulting “huRANKL” mice exclusively express chimeric (human/murine) RANKL that was measurable with a human RANKL assay and that maintained bone resorption at slightly reduced levels versus wildtype controls. In young huRANKL mice, denosumab and OPG-Fc each reduced trabecular osteoclast surfaces by 95% and increased bone density and volume. In adult huRANKL mice, denosumab reduced bone resorption, increased cortical and cancellous bone mass, and improved trabecular microarchitecture. These huRANKL mice have potential utility for characterizing the activity of denosumab in a variety of murine bone disease models.