Tracking circadian rhythms of bone mineral deposition in murine calvarial organ cultures


Address correspondence to: Michael D Morris, PhD, Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, 930 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1055, USA. E-mail:


Osteoblasts, which orchestrate the deposition of small apatite crystals through the expression of nucleating proteins, have been shown to also express clock genes associated with the circadian signaling pathway. We hypothesized that protein-mediated bone mineralization may be linked to circadian oscillator mechanisms functioning in peripheral bone tissue. In this study, Per1 expression in ex vivo neonatal murine calvaria organ cultures was monitored for 6 days using a Per1-luciferase transgene as a bioluminescent indicator of clock function. Fluctuations in Per1 expression had a period of 25 ± 4 hours (n = 14) with early expression at CT09:59 ± 03:37 (CT = circadian time). We also established the kinetics of mineral deposition in developing bone by using noninvasive Raman microscopy to track mineral accumulation in calvarial tissue. The content and quality of newly deposited mineral was continually examined at the interparietal bone/fontanel boundary for a period of 6 days with 1-hour temporal resolution. Using this approach, mineralization over time exhibited bursts of mineral deposition followed by little or no deposition, which was recurrent with a periodicity of 26.8 ± 9.6 hours. As many as six near-daily mineralization events were observed in the calvaria before deposition ceased. Earliest mineralization events occurred at CT16:51 ± 03:45, which is 6 hours behind Per1 expression. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that mineralization in developing bone tissue is regulated by a local circadian oscillator mechanism.