Effects of ionizing irradiation on formation and resorbing activity of osteoclasts in vitro

B A Scheven, E H Burger, E W Kawilarang-de Haas, A M Wassenaar, P J Nijweide

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44 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of ionizing irradiation on the differentiation and activity of the osteoclast were investigated. Embryonic mouse metatarsal bones of different ages (14, 15, 16, 17 days) in which no osteoclasts had as yet been formed were irradiated with various x-ray doses and cultured until a marrow cavity became visible in the nonirradiated paired control bones. Bone growth and calcification were followed microscopically during culture. Irradiation caused a dose-dependent stunting of the longitudinal growth. Calcification was inhibited by high radiation doses (10 to 20 Gray (Gy), whereas a dose of 2.5 Gy stimulated the process in the early stages of long bone development. Histologic examination revealed complete inhibition of osteoclast formation in the 14- and 15-day-old bones after irradiation with 2.5 Gy or more. The number of osteoclasts in cultured older bones (16 days) was significantly reduced by irradiation, but osteoclast formation could not be completely prevented even by high dosages. Irradiation of explanted bone rudiments which were in a stage 1 day prior to the appearance of osteoclasts in vivo (17 days) did not significantly influence the formation of osteoclasts. Autoradiographic experiments using young bones showed that differentiation of osteoclast precursors into multinucleated osteoclasts is preceded by one or more divisions of the precursors in the periosteum. Furthermore, it was established from continuous 3H-thymidine-labeling experiments that in older bones (16 days) a part of the osteoclast nuclei originated from postmitotic osteoclast precursors. Irradiation mainly inhibited the appearance of labeled osteoclast nuclei in these bones. The results indicate that the osteoclast precursor, already present in the periosteum at an early stage of embryonic development, first proliferates and then differentiates into a mononuclear postmitotic preosteoclast. The proliferation is probably highly radiosensitive. Subsequently, the preosteoclasts fuse into multinucleated osteoclasts and invade the calcified hypertrophic cartilage zone. The resorbing activity of the osteoclast is less radiosensitive but can be inhibited by 5.0 Gy or more, as was established by morphometric and biochemical methods.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-9
Number of pages8
JournalLaboratory investigation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1985


  • Animals
  • Age Factors
  • Bone Resorption
  • Osteoclasts
  • Metatarsus
  • Mice
  • Stem Cells
  • Osteogenesis
  • Cell Division


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