To characterize osteopenic changes 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 killed at various times from 14–180 days postovariectomy. The proximal tibial metaphysis was processed undecalcified for quantitative bone histomorphometry. Osteopenia and increased indices of bone resorption and formation were detected in OVX rats as early as 14 days. Longitudinal bone growth was also significantly increased by ovariectomy at 14 days, but returned to control levels at all later times. In OVX rats, osteopenia became progressively more pronounced with time up to 100 days postovariectomy, after which trabecular bone volume appeared to stabilize at the markedly reduced level of 5%. Changes in osteoclast surface, osteoblast surface, and fluoro-chrome-based indices of bone formation in OVX rats followed a similar time course. The maximal increase in these parameters occurred during the first several months postovariectomy followed by a gradual decline toward control levels. Our results indicate that the initial rapid phase of bone loss in OVX rats is coincident with the maximal increase in bone turnover. At later times postovariectomy, bone loss and bone turnover both subside. These findings emphasize the close temporal association between the development of osteopenia and increased bone turnover in OVX rats.
Keywords: Ovariectomy; Osteopenia; Bone turnover; Time course; Quantitative bone histomorphometry