Growth hormone (GH) stimulates osteoblasts in vitro and increases bone turnover and stimulates osteoblast activity when given to elderly subjects. Probably a major effect of GH on bone is mediated through stimulation of either circulating or locally produced insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I). We determined the effect of chronic administration of the GH secretagogue, MK-677, on serum IGF-I and markers of bone turnover in 187 elderly adults (65 years or older) enrolled in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies lasting 2-9 weeks. Urine was collected for determination of N-telopeptide cross-links (NTXs), a marker of bone resorption, and blood was collected for determination of serum osteocalcin and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BSAP), as bone formation markers, and serum IGF-I levels pre- and post-treatment. Dose response data were initially obtained in healthy elderly subjects who received oral doses of 10 mg or 25 mg of MK-677 or placebo for 2 weeks (n = 10-12/group). Treatment with 10 mg and 25 mg of MK-677 for 2 weeks increased mean urine NTXs 10% and 17%, respectively (p < 0.05 vs. placebo). Additionally, 50 healthy elderly subjects received either placebo (n = 20) for 4 weeks or 25 mg of MK-677 (n = 30) daily for 2 weeks followed by 50 mg daily for 2 weeks. MK-677 increased mean serum osteocalcin by 8% (p < 0.05 vs. placebo). In both studies, MK-677 increased serum IGF-I levels significantly (55-94%). Subsequently, the biological effects of MK-677 were studied in 105 elderly subjects who met objective criteria for functional impairment. Subjects were randomized to receive oral doses of placebo for 9 weeks or either 5, 10, or 25 mg of MK-677 daily for an initial 2 weeks followed by 25 mg of MK-677 daily for the next 7 weeks(n = 63 on MK-677 and n = 28 on placebo completed 9 weeks of therapy). Treatment with MK-677 (all MK-677 groups combined) for 9 weeks increased mean serum osteocalcin by 29.4% and BSAP by 10.4% (p < 0.001 vs. placebo) and mean urinary NTX excretion by 22.6% (p < 0.05 vs. placebo). The change from baseline serum osteocalcin correlated with the change from baseline serum IGF-I in the MK-677 group (r = 0.37; p < 0.01). In conclusion, once daily dosing with MK-677, an orally active GH secretagogue, stimulates bone turnover in elderly subjects based on elevations in biochemical markers of bone resorption and formation.