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Keywords:

  • aromatase;
  • estrogen;
  • osteoporosis;
  • mice;
  • bone

Abstract

Aromatase synthesizes estrogen from androgen precursors. To better understand the role of estrogen in skeletal metabolism and growth, we have assessed long bone growth and histomorphometry in aromatase-deficient (ArKO) mice. The age range for the animals was 5–7 months. At this age mice have already achieved peak bone density but continue slow bone growth. Femur length, an index of long bone growth, showed decreased growth in ArKO males compared with wild-type (wt) littermates but no significant difference in females. Radiographically, compared with age- and sex- matched littermates both ArKO males and females showed osteopenia in the lumbar spine. Histologically, both ArKO males and females showed an osteoporotic-type picture, characterized by significant decreases in trabecular bone volume and trabecular thickness. However, compared with wt littermates female ArKO animals showed a bone remodeling picture consistent with increased bone turnover, much like early postmenopausal osteoporosis in humans. On the other hand, male ArKO animals showed decreases in both osteoblastic and osteoclastic surfaces compared with wt littermates, similar to age-related osteopenia. These findings suggest that osteoporosis seen in aromatase-deficient mice may arise from different bone remodeling activities between males and females. These results also show that the ArKO model exhibits the expected results of estrogen deficiency and may be a good model for investigating sex-specific responses to estrogen deficiency. Furthermore, they imply that estrogen is important for attaining peak bone mass in male as well as in female mice.