, Volume 79, Issue 5, pp 340-353
Date: 14 Nov 2006

Mechanism by which MLO-A5 Late Osteoblasts/Early Osteocytes Mineralize in Culture: Similarities with Mineralization of Lamellar Bone

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The mechanisms whereby bone mineralizes are unclear. To study this process, we used a cell line, MLO-A5, which has highly elevated expression of markers of the late osteoblast such as alkaline phosphatase, bone sialoprotein, parathyroid hormone type 1 receptor, and osteocalcin and will mineralize in sheets, not nodules. In culture, markers of osteocytes and dendricity increase with time, features of differentiation from a late osteoblast to an early osteocyte. Mineral formation was examined using transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, and atomic force microscopy. At 3–4 days of culture, spheres of approximately 20–50 nm containing calcium and phosphorus were observed budding from and associated with developing cellular projections. By 5–6 days, these calcified spheres were associated with collagen fibrils, where over time they continued to enlarge and to engulf the collagen network. Coalescence of these mineralized spheres and collagen-mediated mineralization were responsible for the mineralization of the matrix. Similar calcified spheres were observed in cultured fetal rat calvarial cells and in murine lamellar bone. We propose that osteoid-osteocytes generate spherical structures that calcify during the budding process and are fully mineralized on their developing cellular processes. As the cellular process narrows in diameter, these mineralized structures become associated with and initiate collagen-mediated mineralization.