Osteoclasts resorb the extracellular matrix of bone by secreting protons and enzymes into a circumpherentially sealed compartment between the osteoclast and the bone surface. Although the lysosomal cysteine proteinases play a major role in matrix degradation by osteoclasts, collagenase (matrix metalloproteinase-1, EC 3.4.24.7) is also required for osteoclastic bone resorption, and may be directly involved in collagen degradation in the hemivacuole. We assessed the effects of inhibitors of cysteine proteinases and collagenase on bone resorption by osteoclasts isolated from rodent bone. We found that while inhibition of cysteine proteinases strongly suppressed osteoclastic resorption, inhibitors of collagenase were without effect on the number, size, or demineralised fringe of excavations. We could find no evidence of expression of mRNA for collagenase in rat osteoclasts by in situ hybridisation, but found that it was expressed by chondrocytes, bone surface cells and osteocytes adjacent to osteoclasts. The distribution of these cells, and the correlation between increased collagenase production and increased stimulation of osteoclastic resorption in vitro by bone cells, suggests that these cells might be involved in the regulation of bone resorption in situ, and that collagenase production might play a role in this process.

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