BACKGROUND: The skeleton is the most common site of colonization by metastatic cancers. Zoledronic acid (ZA) has been shown to be effective for the treatment of bone metastases regardless of whether the bone lesions are osteolytic or osteoblastic. Biochemical markers of bone turnover may be useful tools to quantify the degree of bone remodeling in the presence of bone metastases. The aim of this work was to establish the correlation between tumor dispersion (bioluminescence) and biochemical markers of bone turnover in two osteolytic and osteoblastic metastasis models in mice. METHODS: The A549M1 cell line that produces osteolytic metastases and the LADOB cell line extracted from a patient with a lung carcinoma and osteoblastic metastases cells were retrovirally transduced with a luciferase reporter gene for in vivo image analysis. Forty-four-week-oldmicewere inoculated in the left cardiac ventricle with A549M1 or LADOB cells. Twenty mouse of each group were treated with a single dose of ZA (70 mu g/kg) 5 days after i.c. Ten animals of each group were sacrificed at 21 and 28 days postinoculation in A549M1 and 60 and 75 days in the LADOB assay. Bioluminescence analysis was quantified 7, 14, 21, and 28 days postinoculation in A549M1 mice and 33, 45, 60, and 75 days after inoculation in LADOB mice. Osteocalcin (BGP), aminoterminal propeptide of procollagen I (PINP), carboxiterminal telopeptide of type I collagen (CTX), and 5b isoenzyme of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase were measured by ELISA (IDS, UK). RESULTS: Bioluminescence imaging revealed a significant increase of tumor burden on time in both osteolytic and osteoblastic mice models. ZA administration resulted in a significant decrease in tumor burden at 21 and 28 days in the A549M1 animals and 60 and 70 days postinoculation in the LADOB line. Biomarkers levels were significantly increased in the untreated group at every point in the osteolytic model. In the osteoblastic model, 2 months after inoculation, all biomarkers were significantly increased. However, 2.5 months postinoculation, only PINP and CTX were significantly increased. Serum bone remodeling markers decreased in ZA- treated mice as compared with tumor groups in both models. With respect to the correlation between bone turnover markers and tumor burden, in the osteolytic model, PINP and BGP demonstrate a strong correlation with bioluminescence in both tumoral and ZA animals, and only CTX was significantly associated with bioluminescence in the group of animals that were not treated with ZA. CONCLUSIONS: We found that the best biomarkers for the diagnosis of both osteolytic and osteoblastic metastasis are formation markers, especially BGP. Moreover, these markers can be useful in the follow-up of the treatment with ZA in both types of metastasis.