Young rabbits were given a single intraperitoneal injection of [3H]uridine. Using the technique of water-soluble autoradiography a study was made of the uptake of the radioactive label into soluble precursors and RNA in cells on an actively growing bone surface. Labelling of the soluble intracellular pools was immediate, but incorporation of label from these pools into RNA was not completed until 24 h after injection. At this time all the label in the sections was in RNA but this represented only 30% of the total label initially in the soluble pools. This means that 70% of the label is lost from the cell in the first 24 h either as degradation products of RNA synthesis or by other as yet unknown mechanisms.
The pattern of labelling of the RNA was similar to that previously found for other mammalian cells in vivo or in vitro. There was a rapid uptake of label into nuclear RNA which reached a maximum by 2 h after injection and a slower uptake into cytoplasmic RNA which reached a maximum by 24 h after injection. There was a slow loss of label from the cells after 24 h indicating a half-life of about 8 days for this relatively stable RNA. A comparison was made of RNA synthesis in the proliferating preosteoblasts and the highly differentiated non-dividing osteoblasts. Labelling of the nuclear RNA for the two cell types was identical. The rate of labelling of the cytoplasmic RNA was similar for the two cell types but the maximum level of labelling in the cytoplasm of the osteoblasts was 2 to 3 times that in the preosteoblasts. This could be correlated with the more active protein synthesis by the osteoblasts.
There was a slow loss of labelled RNA by the osteoblasts and preosteoblasts and a rapid loss by the osteocytes after the cells had been incorporated within the bone. It was suggested that this loss paralleled the decline in the rate of protein synthesis by the cells as their environment changed.