State Key Laboratory of Radiation Medicine and Protection, School of Radiation Medicine and Protection, Medical College of Soochow University, Suzhou, China; Collaborative Innovation Center of Radiation Medicine of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, Suzhou, China; Center for Radiological Research, College of Physician and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Radiation therapy leads to increased risk of late-onset fragility and bone fracture due to the loss of bone mass. On the other hand, iron overloading causes osteoporosis by enhancing bone resorption. It has been shown that total body irradiation increases iron level, but whether the systemic bone loss is related to the changes in iron level and hepcidin regulation following bone irradiation remains unknown. To investigate the potential link between them, we first created an animal model of radiation-induced systemic bone loss by targeting the mid-shaft femur with a single 2 Gy dose of X-rays. We found that mid-shaft femur focal irradiation led to structural deterioration in the distal region of the trabecular bone with increased osteoclasts surface and expressions of bone resorption markers in both irradiated and contralateral femurs relative to non-irradiated controls. Following irradiation, reduced hepcidin activity of the liver contributed to elevated iron levels in the serum and liver. By injecting hepcidin or deferoxamine (an iron chelator) to reduce iron level, deterioration of trabecular bone microarchitecture in irradiated mice was abrogated. The ability of iron chelation to inhibit radiation-induced osteoclast differentiation was observed in vitro as well. We further showed that ionizing radiation (IR) directly stimulated osteoclast differentiation and bone resorption in bone marrow cells isolated not from contralateral femurs but from directly irradiated femurs. These results suggest that increased iron levels after focal radiation is at least one of the main reasons for systemic bone loss. Furthermore, bone loss in directly irradiated bones is not only due to the elevated iron level, but also from increased osteoclast differentiation. In contrast, the bone loss in the contralateral femurs is mainly due to the elevated iron level induced by IR alone. These novel findings provide proof-of-principle evidence for the use of iron chelation or hepcidin as therapeutic treatments for IR-induced osteoporosis.