It has been established, that the osteoclast is derived from the haemopoietic stem cell, but its exact lineage is still controversial. It is sometimes suggested, that osteoclasts and monocytes/macrophages are related cells. It has also been suggested that osteoclast differentiation is regulated by osteoblasts and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-(OH)2D3). In the present paper we addressed the question whether avian monocytes can differentiate into osteoclasts in vitro, using an array of immunocytochemical, enzyme cytochemical and function markers. We have also determined the effects of osteoblasts, osteoblast conditioned medium and 1,25-(OH)2D3 on the expression of osteoclastic features on monocytes during culture. Monocytes developed tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAcP) enzyme activity and antigens for all anti-osteoclast antibodies tested, during culture. However, they did not acquire the ability to resorb dentine and still showed phagocytosis of latex spheres. This indicates that the monocytes developed into cells resembling osteoclasts but lacking their function while retaining the function of macrophages. Osteoblast conditioned medium stimulated TRAcP enzyme activity and proliferation of monocytes in cultures. Addition of osteoblasts or osteoblast conditioned medium to monocyte cultures on dentine in the presence or absence of 1,25-(OH)2D3 did not result in the generation of genuine osteoclasts, nor in pit formation. 1,25-(OH)2D3 appeared to be cytotoxic to the avian monocytes in concentrations considered optimal for mouse osteoclast formation. These results suggest that avian monocytes do not readily differentiate into osteoclasts under in vitro conditions that stimulate osteoclast differentiation from bone marrow derived haemopoietic cells. Furthermore, labelling with anti-osteoclast antibodies and TRAcP as osteoclast-markers should be used only with great caution in the identification of osteoclasts formed in vitro.
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