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Immunocytochemical demonstration of extracellular matrix proteins in isolated osteocytes

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Abstract

Cultures of isolated osteocytes may offer an appropriate system to study osteocyte function, since isolated osteocytes in culture behave very much like osteocytes in vivo. In this paper we studied the capacity of osteocytes to change their surrounding extracellular matrix by production of matrix proteins. With an immunocytochemical method we determined the presence of collagen type I, fibronectin, osteocalcin, osteopontin and osteonectin in cultures of isolated chicken osteocytes, osteoblasts and periosteal fibroblasts. In osteoblast and periosteal fibroblast cultures, large extracellular networks of collagen type I and fibronectin were formed, but in osteocyte populations, extracellular threads of collagen or fibronectin were only rarely found. The percentage of cells positive for osteocalcin, osteonectin and osteopontin in the Golgi apparatus, on the other hand, was highest in the osteocyte population. These results show that osteocytes have the ability to alter the composition of their surrounding extracellular matrix by producing matrix proteins. We suggest this property is of importance for the regulation of the calcification of the bone matrix immediately surrounding the cells. More importantly, as osteocytes depend for their role as mechanosensor cells on their interaction with matrix proteins, the adaptation of the surrounding matrix offers a way to regulate their response to mechanical loading.

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Aarden, E.M., Wassenaar, A.M.M., Alblas, M.J. et al. Immunocytochemical demonstration of extracellular matrix proteins in isolated osteocytes. Histochem Cell Biol 106, 495–501 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02473312

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