Localized irradiation is a common treatment modality for malignancies in the pelvic-abdominal cavity. We report here on the changes in bone mass and strength in mice 7–14 days after abdominal irradiation. Male C57BL/6 mice of 10–12 weeks of age were given a single-dose (0, 5, 10, 15 or 20 Gy) or fractionated (3 Gy × 2 per day × 7.5 days) X rays to the abdomen and monitored daily for up to 14 days. A decrease in the serum bone formation marker and ex vivo osteoblast differentiation was detected 7 days after a single dose of radiation, with little change in the serum bone resorption marker and ex vivo osteoclast formation. A single dose of radiation elicited a loss of bone mineral density (BMD) within 14 days of irradiation. The BMD loss was up to 4.1% in the whole skeleton, 7.3% in tibia, and 7.7% in the femur. Fractionated abdominal irradiation induced similar extents of BMD loss 10 days after the last fraction: 6.2% in the whole skeleton, 5.1% in tibia, and 13.8% in the femur. The loss of BMD was dependent on radiation dose and was more profound in the trabecula-rich regions of the long bones. Moreover, BMD loss in the total skeleton and the femurs progressed with time. Peak load and stiffness in the mid-shaft tibia from irradiated mice were 11.2–14.2% and 11.5–25.0% lower, respectively, than sham controls tested 7 days after a single-dose abdominal irradiation. Our data demonstrate that abdominal irradiation induces a rapid loss of BMD in the mouse skeleton. These effects are bone type- and region-specific but are independent of radiation fractionation. The radiation-induced abscopal damage to the skeleton is manifested by the deterioration of biomechanical properties of the affected bone.

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