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Estrogen deficiency at the menopause is associated with an increased rate of bone loss and subsequent risk of skeletal fracture. Whilst cells of the osteoblastic lineage are known to express estrogen receptors, the presence of estrogen receptors in osteoclasts remains controversial. We have examined expression of the classic estrogen receptor, estrogen receptor-alpha (ERalpha), during osteoclast differentiation. In situ mRNA hybridisation with a digoxygenin-labelled riboprobe to ERalpha mRNA, together with immunocytochemical analysis using a human ERalpha-specific monoclonal antibody demonstrated similar findings and confirmed the expression of ERalpha in chondroblasts and osteoblasts from human fetal bone and mineralising human bone marrow cultures. ERalpha expression was detected in human bone marrow cultures treated with 1,25(OH)2D3 and macrophage colony-stimulating factor and in macrophage cultures treated with 1,25(OH)2D3. However, in an in vitro model of human osteoclast formation, no ERalpha expression was observed in the osteoclasts that developed. The human preosteoclast TCG 51 cell line showed strong expression of ERalpha in contrast to the low levels observed in the more mature bone resorptive TCG 23 cell line. No expression was detectable in osteoclasts cultured from giant cell tumour of bone (GCTB) tissue or in osteoclasts in Pagetic, GCTB, or hyperparathyroid bone tissues. In conclusion, preosteoclasts express detectable levels of ERalpha, but osteoclast maturation and bone resorption is associated with loss of ERalpha expression. This indicates that ERalpha expression and regulation may play a role in osteoclast formation.


Journal article


Histochem cell biol

Publication Date





125 - 133


Bone Diseases, Bone Marrow Cells, Bone Neoplasms, Breast Neoplasms, Cell Lineage, Estrogen Receptor alpha, Female, Gene Expression, Giant Cell Tumors, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, In Situ Hybridization, Muscle, Skeletal, Osteoclasts, RNA, Messenger, Receptors, Estrogen, Tissue Distribution, Tumor Cells, Cultured