Basic principles and clinical applications of biochemical markers of bone metabolism: biochemical and technical aspects

J Clin Densitom. 1999 Fall;2(3):299-321. doi: 10.1385/jcd:2:3:299.


The interest in and the need for effective measures to be used in the screening, diagnosis, and follow-up of disorders of connective tissue, bone, and mineral metabolism has markedly grown. Next to clinical and imaging techniques, indices of bone turnover have come to play an important role in the assessment of metabolic bone disease. In osteoporosis, recent research has shown that bone markers may also be used to predict future bone loss and hip fractures (in larger cohorts of older patients), identify individuals at risk for osteoporosis, select therapy, and predict and monitor the therapeutic response in individual patients. The development of new markers of bone metabolism has greatly enriched the spectrum of serum and urine analytes used in the assessment of skeletal pathologies. Besides total alkaline phosphatase, other markers such as bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, or the collagen propeptides are being used to measure bone formation. Bone resorption, previously assessed only by the measurement of urinary calcium and hydroxyproline, may now be detected more precisely by a number of new serum and urine markers. Among these, the pyridinium crosslinks and the telopeptides of collagen type I are presently considered the most specific markers of bone resorption. More recently, bone sialoprotein has also been suggested as a marker of bone resorption in serum. Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase is now measurable by immunoassay. This article surveys the biochemistry and relevant technical aspects of the currently available markers of bone metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Bone Development*
  • Bone Resorption / diagnosis*
  • Humans


  • Biomarkers