Low-Dose Tamoxifen Induces Significant Bone Formation in Mice

Zhihui Xie, Cody McGrath, Jeyantt Sankaran, Maya Styner, Sarah Little-Letsinger, Amel Dudakovic, Andre J. van Wijnen, Janet Rubin, Buer Sen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Use of the selective estrogen receptor modulator Tamoxifen (TAM) is a mainstay to induce conditional expression of Cre recombinase in transgenic laboratory mice. To excise β-cateninfl/fl in 28-day-old male and female Prrx1-CreER/β-cateninfl/fl mice (C57BL/6), we utilized TAM at 150 mg/kg; despite β-catenin knockout in MSC, we found a significant increase in trabecular and cortical bone volume in all genders. Because TAM was similarly anabolic in KO and control mice, we investigated a dose effect on bone formation by treating wild-type mice (WT C57BL/6, 4 weeks) with TAM (total dose 0, 20, 40, 200 mg/kg via four injections). TAM increased bone in a dose-dependent manner analyzed by micro–computed tomography (μCT), which showed that, compared to control, 20 mg/kg TAM increased femoral bone volume fraction (bone volume/total volume [BV/TV]) (21.6% ± 1.5% to 33% ± 2.5%; 153%, p < 0.005). With TAM 40 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg, BV/TV increased to 48.1% ± 4.4% (223%, p < 0.0005) and 58% ± 3.8% (269%, p < 0.0001) respectively, compared to control. Osteoblast markers increased with 200 mg/kg TAM: Dlx5 (224%, p < 0.0001), Alp (166%, p < 0.0001), Bglap (223%, p < 0.0001), and Sp7 (228%, p < 0.0001). Osteoclasts per bone surface (Oc#/BS) nearly doubled at the lowest TAM dose (20 mg/kg), but decreased to <20% control with 200 mg/kg TAM. Our data establish that use of TAM at even very low doses to excise a floxed target in postnatal mice has profound effects on trabecular and cortical bone formation. As such, TAM treatment is a major confounder in the interpretation of bone phenotypes in conditional gene knockout mouse models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10450
JournalJBMR Plus
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • μCT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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