Voltage, calcium, and stretch activated ionic channels and intracellular calcium in bone cells



Embryonic chick bone cells express various types of ionic channels in their plasma membranes for as yet unresolved functions. Chick osteoclasts (OCL) have the richest spectrum of channel types. Specific for OCL is a K+ channel, which activates (opens) when the inside negative membrane potential (Vm) becomes more negative (hyperpolarization). This is consistent with findings of others on rat OCL. The membrane conductance constituted by these channels is called the inward rectifying K+ conductance (GKi), or inward rectifier, because the hyperpolarization-activated channels cause cell-inward K+ current to pass more easily through the membrane than outward K+ current. Besides GKi, channels, OCL may express two other types of voltage-activated K+ channels. One constitutes the transient outward rectifying K+ conductance (GKto), which is activated upon making the membrane potential less negative (depolarization) but has a transient nature. This conductance favors transient K+ conduction in the cell-outward direction. The GKto also occurs in a small percentage of cells in osteoblast (OBL) and periosteal fibroblast (PFB) cultures. The other OCL K+ conductance, the GKCa, is activated by both membrane depolarization and a rise in [Ca2+]i. GKCa channels are also present in the other chick bone cell types, that is, OBL, osteocytes (OCY), and PFB. Furthermore, in excised patches of all bone cell types, channels have been found that conduct anions, including CI and phosphate ions. These channels are only active around Vm = 0 mV. While searching for a membrane mechanism for adaptation of bone to mechanical loading, we found stretch-activated channels in chick osteoclasts; other investigators have found stretch-activated cation channels (K+ or aselective) in rat and human osteogenic cell lines. In contrast to other studies on cell lines or OBL from other species, we have not found any of the classic macroscopic voltage-activated calcium conductances (GCa) in any of the chick bone cells under our experimental conditions. However, our fluorescence measurements of [Ca2+]i in single cells indicate the presence of Ca2+ conductive pathways through the plasma membrane of osteoblastic cells and osteoclasts, consistent with other studies. We discuss possible roles for GKi, GKCa, and anion channels in acid secretion by OCL and for stretch-activated channels in OCL locomotion.