A therapeutic role of amino acids L-lysine (Lys) and L-arginine (Arg) in osteoporosis and fracture healing was demonstrated previously by in vivo studies. In the present study, primary cultures of osteoblasts were used to investigate the effect of amino acids on gene expression (alkaline phosphatase activity, ALP; osteocalcin, OC; type I collagen), nitric oxide production (NO) and proliferation (MTT) of cells. Cells were isolated from the distal femurs of normal and osteopenic rats. Normal and osteopenic bone-derived cells were divided into four groups: control, Lys (0.587 mg/mL/d), Arg (0.625 mg/mL/d), and Lys + Arg (0.587 + 0.625 mg/mL/d). No evidence of differences between normal and osteopenic bone-derived cultures in basal conditions was observed. A significant (P = 0.002) increase of 10.4% in NO production was observed in normal bone-derived osteoblasts treated with Lys + Arg when compared to the control group at 7 days. At the same time, normal bone-derived osteoblasts treated with Arg and Lys + Arg showed significant increases in type I collagen synthesis of 25.3% and 28.4%, respectively, when compared to the control group. Osteopenic bone-derived osteoblasts showed significant (P = 0.002) increases of 27.6% in MTT and 28.7% in cell count at 48 hours when treated with Lys + Arg in comparison with the control group. At 7 days, NO production and type I collagen synthesis increased significantly (P <0.005) both in osteopenic bone-derived osteoblasts treated with Arg (NO: 18.5%; type I collagen: 34.4%) and Lys + Arg (NO: 23.7%; type I collagen: 20.9%) compared to the control group. Finally, a significant (P = 0.025) decrease of 5.8% in OC level was observed in osteopenic bone-derived osteoblasts treated with Arg. Results suggest that the potential therapeutic effect of Lys and44nArg on bone could be related, at least in part, to an improvement of NO production and type I collagen synthesis by osteoblasts both in normal and in osteopenic bone. In osteopenic bone-derived osteoblasts this synthetic phase is preceded by an initial increase of cell proliferation.
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