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Mononuclear precursors of the human osteoclast have been identified in both bone marrow and the circulation in man, but osteoclast membership of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) and its precise cellular ontogeny remain controversial. We isolated human hematopoietic marrow cells, blood monocytes, and peritoneal macrophages and incubated each of these cell populations with UMR106 osteoblast-like cells on glass coverslips and dentine slices in both the presence and absence of 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25(OH)2D3), macrophage-colony stimulating factor (M-CSF), and dexamethasone. Cells isolated from peripheral blood and peritoneal dialysis fluid were positive only for monocyte/macrophage markers (CD11a, CD11b, CD14, and HLA-DR) and negative for osteoclast markers [tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP), vitronectin reception (VNR), and calcitonin (CT) receptors and did not form resorption pits on dentine slices after 24 hours in culture. Similarly marrow cells did not form resorption pits on dentine slices after 24 hours in culture. However, after 14 days in co-culture with UMR106 cells, in the presence of 1,25(OH)2D3 and M-CSF, numerous TRAP, CT receptor, and VNR-positive multinucleated cells capable of extensive lacunar resorption were formed in co-cultures of all these preparations. The presence of 1,25 (OH)2D3, M-CSF, and UMR106 were absolute requirements for osteoclast differentiation. It is concluded that precursor cells capable of osteoclast differentiation are present in the marrow compartment, the monocyte fraction of peripheral blood, and in the macrophage compartment of extraskeletal tissues and that these cells are capable of differentiating into mature functional osteoclasts. These findings argue in favor of osteoclast membership of the human MPS.

Original publication




Journal article


Calcif tissue int

Publication Date





527 - 531


Bone Marrow Cells, Cell Differentiation, Humans, Immunoenzyme Techniques, Macrophages, Peritoneal, Monocytes, Osteoclasts, Receptors, Calcitonin