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Biotech Histochem. 2003 Oct;78(5):271-8.

Quantification of tartrate resistant acid phosphatase distribution in mouse tibiae using image analysis.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35233, USA.


Tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity of bone is a suitable biochemical marker for osteoclastic bone resorption. Qualitatively, the histochemical distribution of TRAP has been used to identify osteoclasts responsible for bone resorption; however, there have been few attempts to quantify TRAP localization. We describe a method for evaluating bone resorption by quantifying area percentages of positive TRAP localization using image analysis. Mouse tibiae were paraffin embedded following demineralization in disodium ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid. Longitudinal sections of tibia were cut from 15 levels in the left and the right limbs of six mice (180 sections total) and stained for TRAP distribution. Positive TRAP localization was quantified by pixel area count and reported as a percentage of the total tissue area specified. The 1.85 mm2 region of interest was placed at the midpoint of the epiphyseal growth plate containing the provisional calcification layer and the primary spongiosa, while excluding cortical bone of each mouse tibia. The percentage of TRAP localization ranged from 0.95 to 1.31% and was not significantly different from level to level or limb to limb in each mouse (p > 0.100). Within the same region of interest, an osteoclast count along the bone perimeter also was performed. We demonstrated a strong correlation (r2 = 0.903) between the conventional histomorphometric osteoclast index and positive TRAP localization, validating the latter as an alternative method to assess bone resorption. Quantitative analysis of TRAP is significant because it allows statistical comparisons between treatment groups, promotes precise pathological diagnoses and facilitates a reference data base that may aid the study of bone related diseases involving increased bone resorption.

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