The anti-osteoporotic effect of velvet antler polypeptides from Cervus elaphus Linnaeus in ovariectomized rats

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 28;150(1):181-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.08.029. Epub 2013 Aug 27.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: The deer velvet antler is well known for its traditional medicinal value, and is widely used in the clinic. It is recorded in the Compendium of Materia Medica that the deer velvet antler replenishes vital essence and strengthens the bone.

Aim of the study: The goal of this study was to investigate the anti-osteoporotic effect of total velvet antler polypeptides from Cervus elaphus Linnaeus (TVAPL) on ovariectomized rats (OVX), and their possible mechanism of the action.

Materials and methods: Wistar rats were divided into five groups: sham-operated group, OVX group, and OVX rats treated with 20, 40, or 60 mk/kg TVAPL for 12 weeks. Calcium and phosphorus levels, bone weight coefficient (BWC), bone mineral density (BMD), and bone mineral content (BMC) were evaluated. The MTT assay was used to measure the activities of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and interleukin-6 (IL-6). In addition, cartilage cells and osteoblast-like cells were exposed to TVAPL, natural velvet antler polypeptides (nVAP), and synthetic velvet antler polypeptides (sVAP), to determine their effects on cell proliferation using the tritiated thymidine incorporation assay. Finally, the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was used to determine the effects of nVAP and sVAP on cytokines related to bone metabolism.

Results: The administration of TVAPL for 12 weeks significantly reversed osteoporosis in OVX rats, thereby improving the BWC, BMD, BMC, and bone microarchitecture. IL-1 and IL-6 were significantly activated in the OVX group, and their activation was inhibited by TVAPL. In addition, nVAP and sVAP promoted the proliferation of cartilage and osteoblast-like cells (p<0.01 or p<0.001), and inhibited the secretion of IL-1α from THP-1 monocytic cells in vitro.

Conclusion: These results suggest that TVAPL are effective in preventing bone loss in OVX rats. The effect of TVAPL on osteoporosis is due to inhibition of IL-1 and IL-6 by nVAP, and promotion of mitosis. sVAP has similar bioactivity as nVAP. Thus, both TVAPL and sVAP may be potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Keywords: Cartilage cell; Osteoblast-like cell; Osteoporosis; Ovariectomy; Velvet antler polypeptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antlers / chemistry*
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / pharmacology
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Line
  • Deer*
  • Female
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1alpha / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / physiopathology
  • Ovariectomy
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Peptides / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Tibia / drug effects
  • Tibia / physiology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-1alpha
  • Interleukin-6
  • Peptides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha