In this study we used a mice model of chronic arthritis to evaluate if bone fragility induced by chronic inflammation is associated with an imbalance in bone turnover and also a disorganization of the bone type I collagen network.
Serum, vertebrae and femur bones were collected from eight-month-old polyarthritis SKG mice and controls. Strength of the femoral bones was evaluated using three-point bending tests and density was assessed with a pycnometer. Bone turnover markers carboxy-terminal collagen cross-linking telopeptides (CTX-I) and amino-terminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PINP) were measured in serum. The organization and density of bone collagen were analyzed in vertebrae using second-harmonic generation (SHG) imaging with a two-photon microscope and trabecular bone microstructure was assessed by scanning electron microscope (SEM).
Femoral bones of SKG mice revealed increased fragility expressed by deterioration of mechanical properties, namely altered stiffness (P = 0.007) and reduced strength (P = 0.006), when compared to controls. Accordingly, inter-trabecular distance and trabecular thickness as observed by SEM were reduced in SKG mice. PINP was significantly higher in arthritic mice (9.18 ± 3.21 ng/ml) when compared to controls (1.71 ± 0.53 ng/ml, P < 0.001). Bone resorption marker CTX-I was 9.67 ± 3.18 ng/ml in arthritic SKG mice compared to 6.23 ± 4.11 ng/ml in controls (P = 0.176). The forward-to-backward signal ratio measured by SHG was higher in SKG animals, reflecting disorganized matrix and loose collagen structure, compared to controls.
We have shown for the first time that chronic arthritis by itself impairs bone matrix architecture, probably due to disturbed bone remodeling and increased collagen turnover. This effect might predispose patients to bone fragility fractures.