Oxidative stress and gamma radiation-induced cancellous bone loss with musculoskeletal disuse

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2010 Jan;108(1):152-61. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00294.2009. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


Exposure of astronauts in space to radiation during weightlessness may contribute to subsequent bone loss. Gamma irradiation of postpubertal mice rapidly increases the number of bone-resorbing osteoclasts and causes bone loss in cancellous tissue; similar changes occur in skeletal diseases associated with oxidative stress. Therefore, we hypothesized that increased oxidative stress mediates radiation-induced bone loss and that musculoskeletal disuse changes the sensitivity of cancellous tissue to radiation exposure. Musculoskeletal disuse by hindlimb unloading (1 or 2 wk) or total body gamma irradiation (1 or 2 Gy of (137)Cs) of 4-mo-old, male C57BL/6 mice each decreased cancellous bone volume fraction in the proximal tibiae and lumbar vertebrae. The extent of radiation-induced acute cancellous bone loss in tibiae and lumbar vertebrae was similar in normally loaded and hindlimb-unloaded mice. Similarly, osteoclast surface in the tibiae increased 46% as a result of irradiation, 47% as a result of hindlimb unloading, and 64% as a result of irradiation + hindlimb unloading compared with normally loaded mice. Irradiation, but not hindlimb unloading, reduced viability and increased apoptosis of marrow cells and caused oxidative damage to lipids within mineralized tissue. Irradiation also stimulated generation of reactive oxygen species in marrow cells. Furthermore, injection of alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant, mitigated the acute bone loss caused by irradiation. Together, these results showed that disuse and gamma irradiation, alone or in combination, caused a similar degree of acute cancellous bone loss and shared a common cellular mechanism of increased bone resorption. Furthermore, irradiation, but not disuse, may increase the number of osteoclasts and the extent of acute bone loss via increased reactive oxygen species production and ensuing oxidative damage, implying different molecular mechanisms. The finding that alpha-lipoic acid protected cancellous tissue from the detrimental effects of irradiation has potential relevance to astronauts and radiotherapy patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption / etiology*
  • Bone Resorption / pathology
  • Bone Resorption / physiopathology*
  • Gamma Rays
  • Hindlimb Suspension / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Osteoclasts / radiation effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects*
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Whole-Body Irradiation / adverse effects*