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J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Dec;26(12):2978-90. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.490.

Lineage-committed osteoclast precursors circulate in blood and settle down into bone.

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  • 1Institute for Oral Science, Matsumoto Dental University, Nagano, Japan.


Osteoclasts are derived from the monocyte/macrophage lineage, but little is known about osteoclast precursors in circulation. We previously showed that cell cycle-arrested quiescent osteoclast precursors (QOPs) were detected along bone surfaces as direct osteoclast precursors. Here we show that receptor activator of NF-κB (RANK)-positive cells isolated from bone marrow and peripheral blood possess characteristics of QOPs in mice. RANK-positive cells expressed c-Fms (receptors of macrophage colony-stimulating factor) at various levels, but scarcely expressed other monocyte/granulocyte markers. RANK-positive cells failed to exert phagocytic and proliferating activities, and differentiated into osteoclasts but not into dendritic cells. To identify circulating QOPs, collagen disks containing bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP disks) were implanted into mice, which were administered bromodeoxyuridine daily. Most nuclei of osteoclasts detected in BMP-2-induced ectopic bone were bromodeoxyuridine-negative. RANK-positive cells in peripheral blood proliferated more slowly and had a much longer lifespan than F4/80 (a macrophage marker)-positive macrophages. When BMP disks and control disks were implanted in RANK ligand-deficient mice, RANK-positive cells were observed in the BMP disks but not in the controls. F4/80-positive cells were distributed in both disks. Administration of FYT720, a sphingosine 1-phosphate agonist, promoted the egress of RANK-positive cells from hematopoietic tissues into bloodstream. These results suggest that lineage-determined QOPs circulate in the blood and settle in the bone.

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