• three-dimensional microcomputed tomography;
  • histomorphometry;
  • bone markers;
  • genetic background;
  • bone phenotype;
  • immobilization


We assessed the effects of tail-suspension in two skeletal genetic backgrounds, the high C3H/HeJ (C3H) and low C57BL/6J (B6) bone masses inbred mice (male, 4-months old). Cancellous bone mass and structural parameters were evaluated in distal femoral metaphysis by three dimensional microcomputed tomography. Bone cellular activities were evaluated by histomorphometry and measurements of alkaline phosphatase activity (ALP) and osteocalcin in blood and deoxypyridinoline (D-pyr) in urine. In C3H mice, 2- and 3-week unloading experiments were performed. After an early and transient decrease in body weight, a 2-week suspension period resulted in stimulation of both bone formation rate by 45% and active osteoclastic surfaces by 19%. D-pyr did not change, but ALP and osteocalcin levels increased by 18% and 72%, respectively, in 2-week suspended mice, and osteocalcin remained elevated by 30% in the 3-week suspended mice. Such cellular modifications allowed the C3H mice to maintain their initial bone mass and trabecular structural parameters even after a 3-week suspension period. In B6 mice, 1- and 2-week unloading experiments were performed. Tail suspension resulted in decreased body weight during the first days followed by an incomplete recovery during the second week of unloading. The resorption activity was unaffected by any suspension time period, whereas a decrease of 42.5% in bone formation rate and of 21.5% in ALP were seen by the end of the first week of suspension, both values being restored after a 2-week suspension period. At this latter time, trabeculae were thinner, leading to a 24.5% cancellous bone loss. Trabecular number and connectivity, rod-plate index, and degree of anisotropy were not modified. We concluded that C3H mice constituted a unique model in which genetic background overwhelmed the usual effects of reduced biomechanical usage in bone, whereas B6 mice, compared with the standardized rat model, offered an alternative model of bone loss in a mature skeleton.