The morphology of osteoclasts, primary cells that resorb bone, is well documented; however, the precise details of their terminal differentiation remains obscure. To date, the only morphological criterion for identifying activated functional osteoclasts has been the presence of ruffled borders. We have developed a rat bone marrow culture system in which osteoclast-like cells formed. These cells fulfilled most of the criteria of osteoclasts, and when they were reseeded on calcified tissue, formed numerous resorption lacunae in vitro. To find an immunological marker for functional osteoclasts, we have used these cells in a functional state as antigens for the preparation of monoclonal antibodies (mAb) that reacted with rat osteoclasts; we obtained mAb Ch1 and Ch2. Interestingly, these mAbs reacted with the marginal portion of authentic osteoclasts, where they attached to the bone surface on frozen sections. The reactivity of Ch1 to rat osteoclasts was more restricted than that of Ch2: Ch1 reacted with few tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive cells on a culture plate. These TRAP-positive cells (including mono- and multinucleated cells) were, however, converted to Ch1-positive cells when they were reseeded on calcified tissues. These findings suggested that the antigen recognized by the Ch1 antibody was induced by some factors of matrix proteins released from calcified tissues.
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