Reversal of loss of bone mass in old mice treated with mefloquine

Bone. 2018 Sep;114:22-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2018.06.002. Epub 2018 Jun 5.


Aging is accompanied by imbalanced bone remodeling, elevated osteocyte apoptosis, and decreased bone mass and mechanical properties; and improved pharmacologic approaches to counteract bone deterioration with aging are needed. We examined herein the effect of mefloquine, a drug used to treat malaria and systemic lupus erythematosus and shown to ameliorate bone loss in glucocorticoid-treated patients, on bone mass and mechanical properties in young and old mice. Young 3.5-month-old and old 21-month-old female C57BL/6 mice received daily injections of 5 mg/kg/day mefloquine for 14 days. Aging resulted in the expected changes in bone volume and mechanical properties. In old mice mefloquine administration reversed the lower vertebral cancellous bone volume and bone formation; and had modest effects on cortical bone volume, thickness, and moment of inertia. Mefloquine administration did not change the levels of the circulating bone formation markers P1NP or alkaline phosphatase, whereas levels of the resorption marker CTX showed trends towards increase with mefloquine treatment. In addition, and as expected, aging bones exhibited an accumulation of active caspase3-expressing osteocytes and higher expression of apoptosis-related genes compared to young mice, which were not altered by mefloquine administration at either age. In young animals, mefloquine induced higher periosteal bone formation, but lower endocortical bone formation. Further, osteoclast numbers were higher on the endocortical bone surface and circulating CTX levels were increased, in mefloquine- compared to vehicle-treated young mice. Consistent with this, addition of mefloquine to bone marrow cells isolated from young mice led to increased osteoclastic gene expression and a tendency towards increased osteoclast numbers in vitro. Taken together our findings identify the age and bone-site specific skeletal effects of mefloquine. Further, our results highlight a beneficial effect of mefloquine administration on vertebral cancellous bone mass in old animals, raising the possibility of using this pharmacologic inhibitor to preserve skeletal health with aging.

Keywords: Aging; Cell/tissue signaling; Osteoclast; Therapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density / physiology
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects*
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Bone Resorption / diagnostic imaging*
  • Bone Resorption / drug therapy*
  • Bone Resorption / metabolism
  • Female
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / drug effects
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / metabolism
  • Mefloquine / pharmacology
  • Mefloquine / therapeutic use*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL


  • Mefloquine