Osteoporosis and associated fractures are the most common and debilitating complication of glucocorticoid use. The use of alternative anti-inflammatory agents without the catabolic and deleterious skeletal side-effects of glucocorticoids is needed. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) may have immunomodulatory as well as positive effects on bone. To further our understanding of the mechanisms of action of DHEA, as a steroid-sparing agent, we investigated and compared the effects of Dexamethasone (DEX) and DHEA on the regulation of the downstream effector pathway of osteoclastogenesis; RANKL /OPG and a range of inflammatory/ pro-resorbing cytokines and receptors using a human clonal osteoblastic cell line. The cells were treated with DEX, DHEA, and androstenedione (ANDI). The mRNA expression of RANKL and OPG was determined by real-time PCR after overnight incubation. The regulation of a broad spectrum of cytokines by DEX and DHEA was also investigated using a human cytokine/growth factor and receptor gene array consisting of 268 cytokine-related cDNAs. To confirm some of the gene expression changes, protein production was measured by ELISA. RANKL expression and RANKL/OPG ratio were increased by DEX. This effect was reversed by co-treatment with both DHEA or ANDI. Several pro-inflammatory cytokines including IL-6, IL-4, IFN-γ, macrophage inhibitory factor (MIF) were down-regulated not only by DEX but also by DHEA. In contrast to DEX, DHEA did not lead to suppression of growth factors including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), fibroblast growth factor-5 (FGF-5), insulin-like growth factor-binding protein3 (IGF-BP3). Several new target genes previously documented to influence bone formation were up-regulated by DHEA such as notch 2, insulin receptor, thrombin receptor (PAR1). The data suggest that DHEA has immunomodulatory properties without the catabolic effects on bone remodeling, observed with glucocorticoid use. DHEA may thus prove useful as a steroid-sparing agent in the management of inflammatory disorders such as SLE or rheumatoid arthritis. Further in vivo studies are indicated.
01 - 05 Apr 2006
European Society of Endocrinology