Osteopenic changes in cancellous bone tissue of the first lumbar vertebral body were characterized in ovariectomized (OVX) rats as a function of time. Female Sprague Dawley rats (240 g body weight, 90 days old) were subjected to bilateral ovariectomy or sham surgery and sacrificed at various times from 0-540 days postovariectomy. The first lumbar vertebra was processed undecalcified for quantitative bone histomorphometry. Cancellous bone volume remained relatively constant in control rats at -40% throughout the duration of the study. In contrast, cancellous bone volume was moderately decreased to 30-35% in OVX rats out to 180 days postovariectomy. Vertebral osteopenia became more pronounced in OVX rats at later times as cancellous bone volume declined to -20% between 180 and 270 days and remained at that osteopenic level for the duration of the study. Osteoblast and osteoclast surface were highly elevated in OVX rats at 35 days, declined gradually toward control levels out to 180 days, then increased markedly at 270 days. Mineralizing surface and bone formation rate (tissue level, total surface referent) were maximally increased in OVX rats at 35-70 days before declining toward control levels at later times. However, these parameters remained significantly increased in OVX rats relative to control rats between 270 and 540 days. Mineral apposition rate was nearly identical in control and OVX rats at all time points and declined linearly with age in both groups. Our results indicate that osteopenia and increased bone turnover occur in the lumbar vertebral bodies of OVX rats, as had been previously observed in the proximal tibial metaphyses of these animals. However, vertebral osteopenia develops more slowly and is less pronounced than tibial osteopenia in OVX rats. This temporal characterization of osteopenic changes in OVX rats may serve as a basis for the design of future studies with the OVX rat as an animal model for postmenopausal bone loss.
Keywords: Ovariectomy; Lumbar vertebra; Osteopenia; Bone turnover; Bone histomorphometry