Interactions between osteoclast progenitors and stromal cells derived from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) within the bone marrow are important for osteoclast differentiation. In vitro models of osteoclastogenesis are well established in animal species; however, such assays do not necessarily reflect human osteoclastogenesis. We sought to establish a reproducible coculture model of human osteoclastogenesis using highly purified human marrow-derived MSCs (hMSCs) and CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). After 3 weeks, coculture of hMSCs and HSCs resulted in an increase in hematopoietic cell number with formation of multinucleated osteoclast-like cells (Ocls). Coculture of hMSCs with HSCs, transduced with a retroviral vector that expresses enhanced green fluorescent protein, produced enhanced green fluorescent protein+ Ocls, further demonstrating that Ocls arise from HSCs. These Ocls express calcitonin and vitronectin receptors and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase and possess the ability to resorb bone. Ocl formation in this assay is cell contact dependent and is independent of added exogenous factors. Conditioned medium from the coculture contained high levels of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-11, leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and macrophage-colony stimulating factor. IL-6 and LIF were present at low levels in cultures of hMSCs but undetectable in cultures of HSCs alone. These data suggest that coculture with HSCs induce hMSCs to secrete cytokines involved in Ocl formation. Addition of neutralizing anti-IL-6, IL-11, LIF, or macrophage-colony stimulating factor antibodies to the coculture inhibited Ocl formation, hMSCs seem to support Ocl formation as undifferentiated progenitor cells, because treatment of hMSCs with dexamethasone, ascorbic acid, and β-glycerophosphate (to induce osteogenic differentiation) actually inhibited osteoclastogenesis in this coculture model. In conclusion, we have developed a simple and reproducible assay using culture-expanded hMSCs and purified HSCs with which to study the mechanisms of human osteoclastogenesis.
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