Bone resorption may generate collagen fragments such as ICTP and CTX, which can be quantified in serum and/or urine by using specific immunoassays, and which are used as clinical markers. However, the relative abundance of ICTP and CTX varies according to the type of bone pathology, suggesting that these two fragments are generated through distinct collagenolytic pathways. In this study, we analyzed the release of ICTP and CTX from bone collagen by the proteinases reported to play a role in the solubilization of bone matrix. Cathepsin K released large amounts of CTX, but did not allow a detectable release of ICTP. Conversely, the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) MMP-2, -9, -13, or -14 released ICTP, but did not allow a detectable release of CTX. Next we analyzed the release of ICTP and CTX from bone explants cultured in the presence of well-established inhibitors of these proteinases and of matrix solubilization. An inhibitor of cysteine proteinases including cathepsin K, inhibited the release of CTX, but not the release of ICTP. MMP inhibitors inhibited the release of ICTP, but also that of CTX, in agreement with the putative role of MMPs in the initiation of bone resorption in addition to matrix solubilization. Similarly the treatment of mice bearing bone metastasis with an MMP inhibitor led to a significant reduction of serum ICTP and CTX, and osteolytic lesions. We conclude that the generation of ICTP and CTX depends on different collagenolytic pathways. This finding may explain why these two markers may discriminate between different bone pathologies.

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