The effects of direct inhibition of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase on osteoblast differentiation

J Cell Biochem. 2011 Jun;112(6):1506-13. doi: 10.1002/jcb.23087.


Statins, drugs commonly used to lower serum cholesterol, have been shown to stimulate osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. These effects have been attributed to the depletion of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP). In this study, we tested whether specific inhibition of GGPP synthase (GGPPS) with digeranyl bisphosphonate (DGBP) would similarly lead to increased osteoblast differentiation. DGBP concentration dependently decreased intracellular GGPP levels in MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblasts and primary rat calvarial osteoblasts, leading to impaired Rap1a geranylgeranylation. In contrast to our hypothesis, 1 µM DGBP inhibited matrix mineralization in the MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblasts. Consistent with this, DGBP inhibited the expression of alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin in primary osteoblasts. By inhibiting GGPPS, DGBP caused an accumulation of the GGPPS substrate farnesyl pyrophosphate (FPP). This effect was observed throughout the time course of MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblast differentiation. Interestingly, DGBP treatment led to activation of the glucocorticoid receptor in MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblast cells, consistent with recent findings that FPP activates nuclear hormone receptors. These findings demonstrate that direct inhibition of GGPPS, and the resulting specific depletion of GGPP, does not stimulate osteoblast differentiation. This suggests that in addition to depletion of GGPP, statin-stimulated osteoblast differentiation may depend on the depletion of upstream isoprenoids, including FPP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase / genetics
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Osteoblasts / cytology*
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects*
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / pharmacology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Geranylgeranyl-Diphosphate Geranylgeranyltransferase
  • geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate