Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Clodronate, alendronate, and other bisphosphonates are widely used in the treatment of bone diseases characterized by excessive osteoclastic bone resorption. The exact mechanisms of action of bisphosphonates have not been identified but may involve a toxic effect on mature osteoclasts due to the induction of apoptosis. Clodronate encapsulated in liposomes is also toxic to macrophages in vivo and may therefore be of use in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. It is generally believed that bisphosphonates are not metabolized. However, we have found that mammalian cells in vitro (murine J774 macrophage-like cells and human MG63 osteosarcoma cells) can metabolize clodronate (dichloromethylenebisphosphonate) to a nonhydrolyzable adenosine triphosphate (ATP) analog, adenosine 5'-(beta, gamma-dichloromethylene) triphosphate, which could be detected in cell extracts by using fast protein liquid chromatography. J774 cells could also metabolize liposome-encapsulated clodronate to the same ATP analog. Liposome-encapsulated adenosine 5'-(beta, gamma-dichloromethylene) triphosphate was more potent than liposome-encapsulated clodronate at reducing the viability of cultures of J774 cells and caused both necrotic and apoptotic cell death. Neither alendronate nor liposome-encapsulated alendronate were metabolized. These results demonstrate that the toxic effect of clodronate on J774 macrophages, and probably on osteoclasts, is due to the metabolism of clodronate to a nonhydrolyzable ATP analog. Alendronate appears to act by a different mechanism.

Original publication




Journal article


J bone miner res

Publication Date





1358 - 1367


Adenosine Triphosphate, Alendronate, Analgesics, Non-Narcotic, Apoptosis, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Clodronic Acid, Diphosphonates, Humans, Liposomes, Microscopy, Fluorescence