Osteoclasts are the sole cells possessing the ability to resorb calcified bone matrix. This occurs via secretion of hydrochloric acid mediated by the V-ATPase and the chloride channel ClC-7. Loss of acidification leads to osteopetrosis characterized by ablation of bone resorption and increased osteoclast numbers, indicating increased life span of the osteoclasts. To investigate the role of the inorganic phase of bone with respect to osteoclast life span, we used the V-ATPase inhibitor bafilomycin and the calcium uptake antagonist ryanodine on human osteoclasts cultured on calcified and decalcified bone slices. Bafilomycin inhibited bone resorption and increased osteoclast survival on calcified but not decalcified bones. Ryanodine attenuated calcium uptake and thereby augmented osteoclast survival on calcified bones. In summary, we found that acidification leading to calcium release from bone during resorption controls osteoclast survival, potentially explaining the increased numbers of osteoclasts in patients with osteopetrosis.
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