The increasing number of osteoporosis patients is a pressing issue worldwide. Osteoporosis frequently causes fragility fractures, limiting activities of daily life and increasing mortality. Many osteoporosis patients take numerous medicines due to other health issues; thus, it would be preferable if a single medicine could ameliorate osteoporosis and other conditions. Here, we screened 96 randomly selected drugs targeting various diseases for their ability to inhibit differentiation of osteoclasts, which play a pivotal role in development of osteoporosis, and identified methotrexate (MTX), as a potential inhibitor. MTX is currently used to treat sarcomas or leukemic malignancies or auto-inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) through its anti-proliferative and immunosuppressive activities; however, a direct effect on osteoclast differentiation has not been shown. Here, we report that osteoclast formation and expression of osteoclastic genes such as NFATc1 and DC-STAMP, which are induced by the cytokine RANKL, are significantly inhibited by MTX. We found that RANKL-dependent calcium (Ca) influx into osteoclast progenitors was significantly inhibited by MTX. RA patients often develop osteoporosis, and osteoclasts are reportedly required for joint destruction; thus, MTX treatment could have a beneficial effect on RA patients exhibiting high osteoclast activity by preventing both osteoporosis and joint destruction.
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