The invasion of oral squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells into the mandibular bone is a common clinical problem. It has been reported that BHY cells, a human oral SCC cell line, are capable of invading mandibular bone of nude mice. These results led us to examine possible mechanisms of osteoclastogenesis induced by BHY cells using in vitro culture systems. When BHY cells were cocultured with mouse bone marrow cells (BMCs), only few osteoclasts were formed, even though BHY cells express the receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL). However, adding BHY cells to a coculture of mouse primary osteoblasts (POBs) and BMCs markedly induced osteoclastogenesis in the absence of osteotropic factors. Furthermore, another oral SCC cell line, HSC-2, which does not express RANKL, also induced osteoclastogenesis in our cocultures. These effects were significantly, but not completely, inhibited by adding osteoprotegerin (OPG). In addition, we also found that TNFα released from these cells partially contributes to osteoclastogenesis via a RANKL-independent mechanism. Adding BHY or HSC-2 cells suppressed mouse OPG mRNA expression and protein production by POBs in cocultures of POBs and human oral SCC cells. This finding is consistent with the result that BHY cells and HSC-2 cells did not enhance osteoclastogenesis in cocultures of BMCs and POBs from OPG-deficient mice. Immunohistochemical analysis showed a reduction of OPG expression in osteolytic lesions as compared to normal lesions from oral SCC patients. Therefore, oral SCC-induced suppression of OPG expression in POBs appears critical for osteoclastogenesis, rather than expression of RANKL in SCC cells.
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