• chondroclast;
  • mandibular condyle;
  • osteoclast;
  • osteopontin;
  • rat

It is suggested that osteopontin may promote osteoclast binding to resorptive sites by interacting with the αvβ3 receptor on osteoclasts. However, the role of osteopontin in functional remodeling of bony structures remains unclear. The present study was conducted to examine the distribution of osteopontin on the condyle and explore the role in condylar remodeling in growing rats using an immunohistochemical method. Twenty Wistar strain male rats aged 7, 14, 28 and 56 days were used. In 7- and 14-day-old rats, no immunoreaction to osteopontin was detected in the cartilage cells. In 28-day-old rats initiating mastication, the thickness of condylar cartilage was decreased abruptly as compared to the younger rats. High immunoreaction to osteopontin was found in the cytoplasm of hypertrophic chondrocytes and on the trabecular bone surfaces of primary spongiosa adjacent to the osteoclasts or chondroclasts. The immunoreactions to osteopontin in the cytoplasm of hypertrophic chondrocytes were less in 56-day-old rats than in 28-day-old rats. It is shown that the alteration in mechanical loading on the mandibular condyle due to functional changes from weaning to mastication correlates with the localization of osteopontin in growing rats. Furthermore, it is suggested that osteopontin may stimulate osteoclastic resorption of calcified matrix by mediating the attachment of osteoclasts and/or chondroclasts during growth-related functional remodeling of the condyle.