Time-lapse reveals that osteoclasts can move across the bone surface while resorbing

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Bone erosion both demands that the osteoclast resorbs bone matrix and moves over the bone surface. It is widely accepted that these two activities alternate, because they are considered mutually exclusive since resorption is believed to involve an immobilizing seal to the bone surface. However, clear real-time observations are still lacking. Herein, we used specific markers and time-lapse to monitor live the spatiotemporal generation of resorption events by osteoclasts cultured on bone slices. In accordance with the current view, we found alternating episodes of resorption and migration resulting in the formation of clusters of round pits. However, very importantly, we also demonstrate that more than half of the osteoclasts moved laterally, displacing their extracellular bone-resorbing compartment over the bone surface without disassembling and reconstructing it, thereby generating long trenches. Compared to pit events, trench events show properties enabling higher aggressiveness: long duration (days), high erosion speed (two times faster) and long-distance erosion (several 100 µm). Simultaneous resorption and migration reflect a unique situation where epithelial/secretory and mesenchymal/migratory characteristics are integrated into just one cell phenotype, and deserves attention in future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2026-2035
Publication statusPublished - 15. Jun 2017


  • Journal Article

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