Osteoclasts are the cells responsible for bone resorption, and their number and rate of formation are critical in determining bone mass. To identify and quantify osteoclasts, as well as to study their formation in bone and in osteoclastogenic cultures, osteoclast-specific cell markers are required. Only the calcitonin receptor (CTR) expression unambiguously identifies osteoclasts and distinguishes them from macrophage polykaryons. However, present autoradiographic methods for CTR detection are cumbersome and time consuming. We have developed rabbit polyclonal antibodies specific for the C-terminal intracellular domain of the mouse and rat C1a CTR. These antibodies labeled HEK-293 cells stably transfected with CTR (but not untransfected HEK-293 cells). This labeling is abrogated by preabsorbing the antibodies with the recombinant antigen. The antibodies immunostained primary mouse and rat osteoclasts as well as osteoclasts in sections of mouse bone. Osteoclasts (both mononuclear and multinucleated) formed from mouse bone marrow or spleen cells cocultured with osteoblasts in the presence of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3and prostaglandin E2were also specifically immunostained by the CTR antibodies. Cocultures incubated under conditions that did not allow osteoclastogenesis (i.e., omission of mediators or osteoblasts, or culture for less than 4 days) were not immunostained by CTR antibodies. Autoradiographic detection of125I-labeled salmon calcitonin combined with CTR immunohistochemistry showed that both methods labeled the same cells. A CTR polyclonal antibody and monoclonal antibody F4/80 were used in combination to show immunofluorescence labeling of murine osteoclasts and macrophage populations, respectively, in marrow/osteoblast cocultures. These results indicate that simple and rapid CTR antibody-based methods can be used to identify osteoclasts, and can be used to characterize the antigenic profile of osteoclasts by using double immunofluorescence analysis.
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