Theophylline, a methylxanthine drug induces osteopenia and alters calciotropic hormones, and prophylactic vitamin D treatment protects against these changes in rats


Subhashis Pal, Kainat Khan, Shyamsundar Pal China, Monika Mittal, Konica porwal, Richa Shrivastava, Isha Taneja, Zakir Hossain, Dhanaraju Mandalapu, Jiaur R. Gayen, Muhammad Wahajuddin, Vishnu Lal Sharma, Arun K. Trivedi, Sabyasachi Sanyal, Smrati Bhadauria, Madan M. Godbole, Sushil K. Gupta, Naibedya Chattopadhyay


The drug, theophylline is frequently used as an additive to medications for people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). We studied the effect of theophylline in bone cells, skeleton and parameters related to systemic calcium homeostasis. Theophylline induced osteoblast apoptosis by increasing reactive oxygen species production that was caused by increased cAMP production. Bone marrow levels of theophylline were higher than its serum levels, indicating skeletal accumulation of this drug. When adult Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with theophylline, bone regeneration at fracture site was diminished compared with control. Theophylline treatment resulted in a time-dependent (at 4- and 8 weeks) bone loss. At 8 weeks, a significant loss of bone mass and deterioration of microarchitecture occurred and the severity was comparable to methylprednisone. Theophylline caused formation of hypomineralized osteoid and increased osteoclast number and surface. Serum bone resorption and formation marker were respectively higher and lower in the theophylline group compared with control. Bone strength was reduced by theophylline treatment. After 8 weeks, serum 25-D3 and liver 25-hydroxylases were decreased in theophylline group than control. Further, theophylline treatment reduced serum 1, 25-(OH)2 vitamin D3 (1,25-D3), and increased parathyroid hormone and fibroblast growth factor-23. Theophylline treated rats had normal serum calcium and phosphate but displayed calciuria and phosphaturia. Co-administration of 25-D3 with theophylline completely abrogated theophylline-induced osteopenia and alterations in calcium homeostasis. In addition, 1,25-D3 protected osteoblasts from theophylline-induced apoptosis and the attendant oxidative stress. We conclude that theophylline has detrimental effects in bone and prophylactic vitamin D supplementation to subjects taking theophylline could be osteoprotective.

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