Osteoprotegerin (OPG) has been identified as a decoy receptor that inhibits osteoclast differentiation and, more recently, as a paracrine regulator of vascular calcification. OPG is suppressed by glucocorticoids (GC); however, results from experimental and clinical studies are not univocal. The aim of this study was to evaluate OPG and bone metabolism in patients with Cushing's syndrome (CS) before and after cure.
Design and methods
Twenty-six patients with CS (all women, mean age: 39.1±11.9 years) and 24 age- and gonadal status-matched healthy women were studied for bone mineral density, bone metabolism, OPG, and receptor activator of nuclear factor-kB ligand at baseline. Twelve patients were also studied 6–18 months after surgery, with persistent normalization of cortisol levels.
OPG was significantly higher and osteocalcin (OC) was significantly lower in CS patients than in controls (OPG: 4.17±1.23 vs 2.95±0.79 pmol/l, P=0.00001; OC: 15.0±6.1 vs 18.8±6.8 ng/ml, P=0.04 in CS and controls respectively). After cure, we found no difference in OPG levels, despite a significant increase in OC levels (from 16.4±11 to 37.2±15 ng/ml, P=0.03).
Patients with CS showed increased OPG serum levels that remained unchanged after recovery, despite a restoration of bone formation. We speculate that high levels of OPG could reflect the persistent damage of the GCs on cardiovascular system.