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Am J Pathol. 1997 Dec;151(6):1555-61.

Matrix vesicles in osteomalacic hypophosphatasia bone contain apatite-like mineral crystals.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City 66160, USA.


Hypophosphatasia, a heritable disease characterized by deficient activity of the tissue nonspecific isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase (TNSALP), results in rickets and osteomalacia. Although identification of TNSALP gene defects in hypophosphatasia establishes a role of ALP in skeletal mineralization, the precise function remains unclear. The initial site of mineralization (primary mineralization) normally occurs within the lumen of TNSALP-rich matrix vesicles (MVs) of growth cartilage, bone, and dentin. We investigated whether defective calcification in hypophosphatasia is due to a paucity and/or a functional failure of MVs secondary to TNSALP deficiency. Nondecalcified autopsy bone and growth plate cartilage from five patients with perinatal (lethal) hypophosphatasia were studied by nondecalcified light and electron microscopy to assess MV numbers, size, shape, and ultrastructure and whether hypophosphatasia MVs contain apatite-like mineral, as would be the case if these MVs retained their ability to concentrate calcium and phosphate internally despite a paucity of TNSALP in their investing membranes. We found that hypophosphatasia MVs are present in approximately normal numbers and distribution and that they are capable of initiating internal mineralization. There is retarded extravesicular crystal propagation. Thus, in hypophosphatasia the failure of bones to calcify appears to involve a block of the vectorial spread of mineral from initial nuclei within MVs, outwards, into the matrix. We conclude that hypophosphatasia MVs can concentrate calcium and phosphate internally despite a deficiency of TNSALP activity.

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