The impact of estrogen depletion and drug treatment on type I collagen fibril nanomorphology and collagen fibril packing (microstructure) was evaluated by atomic force microscopy (AFM) using an ovariectomized (OVX) rabbit model of estrogen deficiency induced bone loss. Nine month-old New Zealand white female rabbits were treated as follows: sham-operated (Sham; n = 11), OVX + vehicle (OVX + Veh; n = 12), OVX + alendronate (ALN, 600 μg/kg/wk., s.c.; n = 12), and OVX + cathepsin-K inhibitor L-235 (CatKI, 10 mg/kg, daily, p.o.; n = 13) in prevention mode for 27 weeks. Samples from the cortical femur and trabecular lumbar vertebrae were polished, demineralized, and imaged using AFM. Auto-correlation of image patches was used to generate a vector field for each image that mathematically approximated the collagen fibril alignment. This vector field was used to compute an information-theoretic entropy that was employed as a quantitative fibril alignment parameter (FAP) to allow image-to-image and sample-to-sample comparison. For all samples, no change was observed in the average FAP values; however significant differences in the distribution of FAP values were observed. In particular, OVX + Veh lumbar vertebrae samples contained a tail of lower FAP values representing regions of greater fibril alignment. OVX + ALN treatment resulted in a FAP distribution with a tail indicating greater alignment for cortical femur and less alignment for trabecular lumbar vertebrae. OVX + CatKI treatment gave a distribution of FAP values with a tail indicating less alignment for cortical femur and no change for trabecular lumbar vertebrae. Fibril alignment was also evaluated by considering when a fibril was part of discrete bundles or sheets (classified as parallel) or not (classified as oblique). For this analysis, the percentage of parallel fibrils in cortical femur for the OVX group was 17% lower than the Sham group. OVX + ALN treatment partially prevented the proportion of parallel fibrils from decreasing and OVX + CatKI treatment completely prevented a change. In trabecular lumbar vertebrae, there was no difference in the percentage of parallel fibrils between Sham and any of the other treatment groups.
- Cathepsin K inhibitor