2002 Volume 21 Issue 1 Pages 51-57
In this study, we examined the effects of a potent cysteine protease inhibitor, N-(L-3-trans-carboxyoxirane-2-cabonyl)-L-leucine-4-aminobutylamide (E-64a), on bone weight and strength in tail-suspended rats. We first administered a vehicle or 4 or 8 mg/rat of E-64a to rats fed with a low calcium diet for 7 wks to determine effective doses of E-64a on bone resorption in vivo. Femoral cathepsin K-like activity and serum hydroxyproline level in rats fed with a low calcium diet were significantly higher than those in rats fed with a standard diet. The intraperitoneal injection of 8 mg/rat of E-64a to rats decreased their serum calcium and hydroxyproline concentrations after 3 to 6 hrs in parallel with changes in femoral cathepsin K-like activity, while 4 mg/rat of E-64a had weaker effects on these parameters. Based on these results, we injected 8 mg/rat of E-64a to tail-suspended rats twice a day for 2 wks and compared the results with those of treatment with 1 mg/rat of etidronate, a bisphosphonate, twice a week. In tail-suspended rats, femoral weight and strength, assessed by three-point bending test, significantly decreased from Day 5 to 21, while femoral cathepsin K-like activity and serum calcium and hydroxyproline concentrations did not change. E-64a inhibited femoral cathepsin K-like activity in tail-suspended rats, but etidronate did not. E-64a as well as etidronate significantly prevented the suspension-induced declines in bone weight and strength. However, more frequent injection and higher doses were required for E-64a to exhibit significant efficacy of antiresorption, compared with those of etidronate. Our results suggest that a cysteine protease inhibitor could improve suspension-induced osteopenia by inhibiting cathepsin K-like activity in bone; however, it needs several improvements in the effect as a clinical drug.