In vivo and in vitro evidence that the high osteoblastic activity in C3H/HeJ mice compared to C57BL/6J mice is intrinsic to bone cells.

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Bone 2004 Sep; 35(3):711-9.


Two inbred mouse strains, C3H/HeJ (C3H) and C57BL/6J (B6), displayed a profound difference in femoral peak bone density. We have previously shown that the difference could be attributed to a greater bone formation rate (BFR) that was due to a higher osteoblastic activity [measured by a mineral apposition rate (MAR)] in the C3H (high density) than B6 (low density) mice. The present study sought to determine (1) whether the BFR/MAR differences between the two mouse strains present in weight-loaded endochondral bones are also seen in less weight-loaded membranous bones and (2) whether the difference in osteoblastic activity was seen in vitro in the absence of systemic factors. To address the first objective, we performed histomorphometric measurements on the weakly loaded membranous bones (i.e., parietal bones of the calvaria) to determine if there were similar differences in MAR and BFR of membranous bones as those of highly loaded, endochondral bones. The parietal bones of adult C3H mice showed similar increases in MAR and BFR as the endochondral bones, compared to B6 mice of same age, suggesting that the differences in the MAR and BFR in the two mouse strains are probably not related to differences in mechanical strain. These findings also suggest that the gene(s) responsible for the difference in MAR between strains may not be a mechanical response gene. With respect to the second objective, we isolated osteoblasts from the parietal bones and determined their differentiation status (i.e., ALP-specific activity) and bone-forming ability (i.e., mineralized nodule formation) in vitro. Consistent with the premise that C3H osteoblasts have an intrinsic, higher differentiation status and bone-forming ability than B6 osteoblasts, osteoblasts isolated from C3H mice as compared with those from B6 mice had a significantly greater ALP-specific activity and a greater ability to form mineralized nodules in vitro in the absence of systemic factors. Because differences in ALP activity, bone-forming ability, cortical bone width, and osteoblastic activity were detected at birth, the different MAR/BFR phenotypes develop at very early life and even perhaps during embryogenesis. In conclusion, we have for the first time provided evidence that the genetic differences responsible for the observed MAR/BFR phenotype in the C3H-B6 strains are intrinsic to osteoblasts and might not depend on responses to mechanical loading and/or alterations in systemic factors.