Osteoclasts are capable of particle phagocytosis and bone resorption

W Wang, D J Ferguson, J M Quinn, A H Simpson, N A Athanasou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Osteoclasts are multinucleated cells specialized for the function of lacunar bone resorption. Although they are known to be capable of phagocytosis of inert particles, it is not known whether this abolishes their ability to respond to hormones or to form resorption lacunae. Human and rat osteoclasts were isolated from giant cell tumours of bone and rat long bones, respectively, and cultured on coverslips and cortical bone slices, both in the presence and in the absence of particles of latex (1 micron diameter) and polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) (< 50 microns). By light microscopy, it was evident that osteoclasts which had phagocytosed both latex and PMMA particles remained responsive to calcitonin. Osteoclast phagocytosis of particles was also evident on scanning electron microscopy, where it could also be seen that these cells were associated with the formation of resorption lacunae. These findings underline the fact that the osteoclast is a true member of the mononuclear phagocyte system and that phagocytosis does not abrogate either its hormonal response to calcitonin or its highly specialized function of bone resorption. That osteoclasts which have phagocytosed biomaterial particles such as PMMA are still able to carry out lacunar bone resorption is of interest in clinical conditions such as aseptic loosening, where a heavy foreign body particle load is often associated with extensive bone resorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-8
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Pathology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 1997


  • Animals
  • Bone Resorption
  • Calcitonin
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Humans
  • Latex
  • Methylmethacrylates
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microspheres
  • Osteoclasts
  • Phagocytosis
  • Rats


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