The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of alendronate and alfacalcidol on cancellous and cortical bone mass and bone mechanical properties in ovariectomized rats. Twenty-six female Sprague-Dawley rats, 7 months of age, were randomized by the stratified weight method into four groups: the sham-operated control (Sham) group and the three ovariectomy (OVX groups, namely, OVX + vehicle, OVX + alendronate (2.5 mg/kg, p.o., daily), and OVX + alfacalcidol (0.5 μg/ kg, p.o., daily). At the end of the 8-week experimental period, bone histomorphometric analyses of cancellous bone at the proximal tibial metaphysis and cortical bone at the tibial diaphysis were performed, and the mechanical properties of the femoral distal metaphysis and femoral diaphysis were evaluated. OVX decreased cancellous bone volume per total tissue volume (BV/TV), and the maximum load of the femoral distal metaphysis, as a result of increases in serum osteocalcin (OC) levels, and also the number of osteoclasts (N.Oc), osteoclast surface (OcS) and bone formation rate (BFR) per bone surface (BS), and BFR/BV, without any effect on cortical area (Ct Ar), or maximum load of the femoral diaphysis. Alendronate prevented this decrease in cancellous BV/TV by suppressing increases in N.OcIBS, OcS/BS, BFR/BS, and BFR/BV, without any apparent effect on Ct Ar, or maximum load of the femoral distal metaphysis and femoral diaphysis. On the other hand, alfacalcidol increased cancellous BV/TV, Ct Ar, and the maximum load of the femoral distal metaphysis and femoral diaphysis, by mildly decreasing trabecular BFR/BV, maintaining trabecular mineral apposition rate and osteoblast surface per BS, increasing periosteal and endocortical BFR/BS, and preventing an increase in endocortical eroded surface per BS. The present study clearly showed the differential skeletal effects of alendronate and alfacalcidol in ovariectomized rats. Alendronate prevented OVX-induced cancellous bone loss by suppressing bone turnover, while alfacalcidol improved cancellous and cortical bone mass and bone strength by suppressing bone resorption and maintaining or even increasing bone formation.
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