Phenytoin increases markers of osteogenesis for the human species in vitro and in vivo

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1995 Aug;80(8):2347-53. doi: 10.1210/jcem.80.8.7629228.


Phenytoin therapy is a well recognized cause of gingival hyperplasia, a condition characterized by increased gingival collagen synthesis, and may also cause acromegalic-like facial features. Based on these clinical findings suggestive of anabolic actions, we sought to test the hypothesis that phenytoin acts on normal bone cells to induce osteogenic effects. To test the direct actions of phenytoin on human bone cells, we measured the dose responses to phenytoin for [3H]thymidine incorporation, cell number, alkaline phosphatase specific activity, and collagen synthesis in human hip bone-derived cells. Phenytoin significantly and reproducibly increased [3H]thymidine incorporation, cell number, alkaline phosphatase specific activity, and collagen synthesis in a biphasic manner with optimal stimulatory doses between 5-10 mumol/L. Thus, micromolar concentrations of phenytoin can act directly on human bone cells to stimulate osteoblast proliferation and differentiation. We next sought to test the hypothesis that phenytoin stimulates bone formation in humans in vivo. Accordingly, three serum biochemical markers of bone formation, i.e. osteocalcin, skeletal alkaline phosphatase, and procollagen C-terminal extension peptide, were measured in 39 male epileptic patients, 20-60 yr of age, with an average duration of phenytoin therapy of 10.5 +/- 1.62 yr (mean +/- SEM). In this group of patients, the mean serum phenytoin level was 9.56 +/- 0.90 mg/L (mean +/- SEM; equivalent to 34.9 +/- 3.3 mumol/L). Thirty apparently healthy male subjects of similar age and taking no medication were included as controls. Serum calcium, 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, and PTH levels in the phenytoin-treated patients were not significantly different from those in the age-matched controls and were within the clinical laboratory normal range of our hospitals, indicating that the patients did not develop hypocalcemia, vitamin D deficiency, or secondary hyperparathyroidism. Serum levels of osteocalcin, skeletal alkaline phosphatase, and procollagen peptide in the phenytoin-treated patients were significantly increased compared to those in the age-matched subjects; in each case these biochemical markers were significantly correlated with the serum phenytoin level, but not with the dose or duration of phenytoin treatment. These findings are consistent with the interpretation that phenytoin increases the bone formation rate in humans in vivo.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / analysis
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Bone and Bones / enzymology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Femur
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoblasts / cytology
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Osteocalcin / blood*
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects*
  • Phenytoin / pharmacology*
  • Phosphates / blood*
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Thymidine / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Phosphates
  • Osteocalcin
  • Phenytoin
  • Collagen
  • DNA
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Thymidine