Osteoclasts are bone-resorbing cells that differentiate from macrophage precursors in response to receptor activator of NF-κB ligand (RANKL). In vitro models of osteoclast differentiation are principally based on primary cell cultures, which are poorly suited to molecular and transgene studies because of the limitations associated with the use of primary macrophage. RAW264.7 is a transfectable macrophage cell line with the capacity to form osteoclast-like cells. In the present study, we have identified osteoclast precursors among clones of RAW264.7 cells. RAW264.7 cell were cloned by limiting dilution and induced to osteoclast differentiation by treatment with recombinant RANKL. Individual RAW264.7 cell clones formed tartrate resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP)-positive multinuclear cells to various degrees with RANKL treatment. All clones tested expressed the RANKL receptor RANK. Each of the clones expressed the osteoclast marker genes TRAP and cathepsin-K mRNA with RANKL treatment. However, we noted that only select clones were able to form large, well-spread, TRAP-positive multinuclear cells. Clones capable of forming large TRAP-positive multinuclear cells also expressed β3 integrin and calcitonin receptor mRNAs and were capable of resorbing a mineralized matrix. All clones tested activated NF-κB with RANKL treatment. cDNA expression profiling of osteoclast precursor RAW264.7 cell clones demonstrates appropriate expression of a large number of genes before and after osteoclastic differentiation. These osteoclast precursor RAW264.7 cell clones provide a valuable model for dissecting the cellular and molecular regulation of osteoclast differentiation and activation.
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Vol. 42 • No. 7