TitleRapamycin impairs bone accrual in young adult mice independent of Nrf2
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsMartin, SA, Riordan, RT, Wang, R, Yu, Z, Aguirre-Burk, AM, Wong, CP, Olson, DA, Branscum, AJ, Turner, RT, Iwaniec, UT, Perez, VI
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Date Published08/2021


  • We tested the impact of rapamycin on the skeleton in young adult wild type and Nrf2 knockout mice.
  • Rapamycin treatment altered bone microarchitecture and impaired bone accrual independent of Nrf2.
  • Nrf2 status had no impact on skeletal outcomes.
  • There was no effect of rapamycin on gene expression of inflammatory mediators.

Advanced age is the strongest risk factor for osteoporosis. The immunomodulator drug rapamycin extends lifespan in numerous experimental model organisms and is being investigated as a potential therapeutic to slow human aging, but little is known about the effects of rapamycin on bone. We evaluated the impact of rapamycin treatment on bone mass, architecture, and indices of bone turnover in healthy adult (16–20 weeks old at treatment initiation) female wild-type (ICR) and Nrf2−/− mice, a mouse model of oxidative damage and aging-related disease vulnerability. Rapamycin (4 mg/kg bodyweight) was administered by intraperitoneal injection every other day for 12 weeks. Mice treated with rapamycin exhibited lower femur bone mineral content, bone mineral density, and bone volume compared to vehicle-treated mice. In midshaft femur diaphysis (cortical bone), rapamycin-treated mice had lower cortical volume and thickness, and in the distal femur metaphysis (cancellous bone), rapamycin-treated mice had higher trabecular spacing and lower connectivity density. Mice treated with rapamycin exhibited lower bone volume, bone volume fraction, and trabecular thickness in the 5th lumbar vertebra. Rapamycin-treated mice had lower levels of bone formation in the distal femur metaphysis compared to vehicle-treated mice which occurred co-incidentally with increased serum CTX-1, a marker of global bone resorption. Rapamycin had no impact on tibia inflammatory cytokine gene expression, and we found no independent effects of Nrf2 knockout on bone, nor did we find any interactions between genotype and treatment. These data show that rapamycin may have a negative impact on the skeleton of adult mice that should not be overlooked in the clinical context of its usage as a therapy to retard aging and reduce the incidence of age-related pathologies.

Short TitleExperimental Gerontology