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Bisphosphonates are inhibitors of bone resorption and are used increasingly as therapeutic agents for treating clinical disorders of skeletal metabolism. Their mode of action is still not fully understood. The demonstration that methylenebisphosphonate, a simple methylene analog of pyrophosphate, inhibits the axenic growth of amoebae of the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum and is incorporated into adenine nucleotides suggested that this organism might be useful in elucidating the cellular effects of bisphosphonates. We examined 24 bisphosphonates, including all those of clinical interest as inhibitors of osteoclast-mediated bone resorption in vivo, for their effects on D. discoideum. All the geminal bisphosphonates inhibited growth of Dictyostelium, although the effectiveness of individual compounds varied widely. When the bisphosphonates were ranked there was a remarkable similarity between the order of potency as inhibitors of growth of Dictyostelium and the order of potency as inhibitors of bone resorption. Thus, bisphosphonates with more complex side-chain structures, especially those containing a nitrogen group, were more potent than simple substituted bisphosphonates, some inhibiting Dictyostelium growth even at concentrations below 10 microM. It therefore appears that the mechanism by which bisphosphonates prevent Dictyostelium growth could be similar to the mechanism by which these compounds affect the activity of osteoclasts. Because the mechanisms of action of bisphosphonates on osteoclasts remains unclear, Dictyostelium may provide an additional model for studying the biochemical mode of action of bisphosphonates. Furthermore, these studies suggest that Dictyostelium may also be a convenient organism for rapid evaluation of potentially active bisphosphonates.

Original publication




Journal article


J bone miner res

Publication Date





1029 - 1039


Animals, Bone Resorption, Dictyostelium, Diphosphonates, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Osteoclasts, Structure-Activity Relationship