Osteoclast Fusion: Time-Lapse Reveals Involvement of CD47 and Syncytin-1 at Different Stages of Nuclearity

Anaïs Marie Julie Møller, Jean-Marie Delaissé, Kent Søe

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Investigations addressing the molecular keys of osteoclast fusion are primarily based on end-point analyses. No matter if investigations are performed in vivo or in vitro the impact of a given factor is predominantly analyzed by counting the number of multi-nucleated cells, the number of nuclei per multinucleated cell or TRAcP activity. But end-point analyses do not show how the fusion came about. This would not be a problem if fusion of osteoclasts was a random process and occurred by the same molecular mechanism from beginning to end. However, we and others have in the recent period published data suggesting that fusion partners may specifically select each other and that heterogeneity between the partners seems to play a role. Therefore, we set out to directly test the hypothesis that fusion factors have a heterogenic involvement at different stages of nuclearity. Therefore, we have analyzed individual fusion events using time-lapse and antagonists of CD47 and syncytin-1. All time-lapse recordings have been studied by two independent observers. A total of 1808 fusion events were analyzed. The present study shows that CD47 and syncytin-1 have different roles in osteoclast fusion depending on the nuclearity of fusion partners. While CD47 promotes cell fusions involving mono-nucleated pre-osteoclasts, syncytin-1 promotes fusion of two multi-nucleated osteoclasts, but also reduces the number of fusions between mono-nucleated pre-osteoclasts. Furthermore, CD47 seems to mediate fusion mostly through broad contact surfaces between the partners’ cell membrane while syncytin-1 mediate fusion through phagocytic-cup like structure. J. Cell. Physiol. 232: 1396–1403, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1396-1403
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • CD47 Antigen/metabolism
  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Nucleus/metabolism
  • Gene Products, env/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteoclasts/cytology
  • Phenotype
  • Pregnancy Proteins/metabolism
  • Time-Lapse Imaging

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