Alexander M. Tatara, Justin H. Lipner, Rosalina Das, H. Mike Kim, Nikunj Patel, Eleni Ntouvali, Matthew J. Silva, Stavros Thomopoulos
Muscle forces are necessary for the development and maintenance of a mineralized skeleton. Removal of loads leads to malformed bones and impaired musculoskeletal function due to changes in bone (re)modeling. In the current study, the development of a mineralized junction at the interface between muscle and bone was examined under normal and impaired loading conditions. Unilateral mouse rotator cuff muscles were paralyzed using botulinum toxin A at birth. Control groups consisted of contralateral shoulders injected with saline and a separate group of normal mice. It was hypothesized that muscle unloading would suppress bone formation and enhance bone resorption at the enthesis, and that the unloading-induced bony defects could be rescued by suppressing osteoclast activity. In order to modulate osteoclast activity, mice were injected with the bisphosphonate alendronate. Bone formation was measured at the tendon enthesis using alizarin and calcein fluorescent labeling of bone surfaces followed by quantitative histomorphometry of histologic sections. Bone volume and architecture was measured using micro computed tomography. Osteoclast surface was determined via quantitative histomorphometry of tartrate resistant acid phosphatase stained histologic sections. Muscle unloading resulted in delayed initiation of endochondral ossification at the enthesis, but did not impair bone formation rate. Unloading led to severe defects in bone volume and trabecular bone architecture. These defects were partially rescued by suppression of osteoclast activity through alendronate treatment, and the effect of alendronate was dose dependent. Similarly, bone formation rate was increased with increasing alendronate dose across loading groups. The bony defects caused by unloading were therefore likely due to maintained high osteoclast activity, which normally decreases from neonatal through mature timepoints. These results have important implications for the treatment of muscle unloading conditions such as neonatal brachial plexus palsy, which results in shoulder paralysis at birth and subsequent defects in the rotator cuff enthesis and humeral head.