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Research Article

Immortalization of osteoclast precursors by targeting Bcl -XL and Simian virus 40 large T antigen to the osteoclast lineage in transgenic mice.

T A Hentunen, S V Reddy, B F Boyce, R Devlin, H R Park, H Chung, K S Selander, M Dallas, N Kurihara, D L Galson, S R Goldring, B A Koop, J J Windle and G D Roodman

Department of Medicine/Hematology, San Antonio, Texas 78284, USA.

Published July 1, 1998

Cellular and molecular characterization of osteoclasts (OCL) has been extremely difficult since OCL are rare cells, and are difficult to isolate in large numbers. We used the tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase promoter to target the bcl-XL and/or Simian Virus 40 large T antigen (Tag) genes to cells in the OCL lineage in transgenic mice as a means of immortalizing OCL precursors. Immunocytochemical studies confirmed that we had targeted Bcl-XL and/or Tag to OCL, and transformed and mitotic OCL were readily apparent in bones from both Tag and bcl-XL/Tag mice. OCL formation in primary bone marrow cultures from bcl-XL, Tag, or bcl-XL/Tag mice was twofold greater compared with that of nontransgenic littermates. Bone marrow cells from bcl-XL/Tag mice, but not from singly transgenic bcl-XL or Tag mice, have survived in continuous culture for more than a year. These cells form high numbers of bone-resorbing OCL when cultured using standard conditions for inducing OCL formation, with approximately 50% of the mononuclear cells incorporated into OCL. The OCL that form express calcitonin receptors and contract in response to calcitonin. Studies examining the proliferative capacity and the resistance of OCL precursors from these transgenic mice to apoptosis demonstrated that the increased numbers of OCL precursors in marrow from bcl-XL/Tag mice was due to their increased survival rather than an increased proliferative capacity compared with Tag, bcl-XL, or normal mice. Histomorphometric studies of bones from bcl-XL/Tag mice also confirmed that there were increased numbers of OCL precursors (TRAP + mononuclear cells) present in vivo. These data demonstrate that by targeting both bcl-XL and Tag to cells in the OCL lineage, we have immortalized OCL precursors that form bone-resorbing OCL with an efficiency that is 300-500 times greater than that of normal marrow.