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Histol Histopathol. 2001 Jan;16(1):37-44.

Ultrastructural evidence in vitro of osteoclast-induced degradation of calcium phosphate ceramic by simultaneous resorption and phagocytosis mechanisms.

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EE99-01, Laboratory of Physiological and Pathological Bone Resorption, Faculty of Medicine, Nantes, France.


Osteoclasts are physiological polykaryons specialized in the resorption of calcified tissue. In the context of the clinical use of calcium-phosphate (CaP) ceramics as bone substitutes, this study used transmission electron microscopy to investigate the in vitro mechanisms of CaP ceramic degradation by osteoclastic cell types. Osteoclasts cultured on CaP ceramic developed typical ultrastructural features of bone osteoclasts, such as a polarized dome shape, a clear zone and a ruffled border. Modification of the shape and density of CaP crystals under the ruffled border indicated an acidic microenvironment. Moreover, osteoclasts were able to degrade ceramic by simultaneous resorption and phagocytosis mechanisms. Phagocytosis did not alter the ability of osteoclasts to resorb CaP ceramic. The phagocytosis mechanism consisted of three steps: crystal phagocytosis, disappearance of the endophagosome envelope membrane and fragmentation of phagocytosed crystals within the cytoplasm. The common mechanism of phagocytosis described here is similar to that observed with the monocyte/macrophage lineage, confirming that osteoclasts are part of the mononuclear phagocyte system. Osteoclasts are thus clearly involved in CaP degradation by means of resorption and phagocytosis.

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