1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  6. Acknowledgements
  • 1
    Extracellular ATP elevates cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) in osteoclasts, but its effects on ion channels have not been reported previously. Membrane currents and [Ca2+]i were recorded in isolated rat osteoclasts using patch clamp and fluorescence techniques.
  • 2
    At negative membrane potentials, ATP (1–100 μm) activated an inward current that peaked rapidly and then declined. A later current was outward at potentials positive to the equilibrium potential for K+ (EK) and showed oscillations.
  • 3
    The initial inward current, studied in isolation using Cs+ in the electrode solution, showed rapid activation, inward rectification and reversal at +3 ± 4 mV. Reduction of [Na+]o to 10 mM shifted the reversal potential to –21 ± 3 mV, indicating that ATP activates a non-selective cation current, consistent with involvement of P2X receptors.
  • 4
    The later current activated by ATP, studied with K+ in the electrode solution, exhibited a linear I–V relationship, and reversed at –71 ± 4 mV. The reversal potential shifted 51 mV per 10-fold change of [K+]o, indicating that ATP activates a K+ current (IK).
  • 5
    In fura-2-loaded cells, ATP caused elevation of [Ca2+]i that persisted in Ca2+-free solution, indicating that ATP induced release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores, consistent with involvement of P2Y receptors. Simultaneous patch clamp and fluorescence recordings revealed that IK was associated with the elevation of [Ca2+]i. Using a Ca2+ ionophore (4Br-A23l87) to elevate [Ca2+]iIK activated when [Ca2+]i exceeded ∼400 nm, with half-maximal activation at 580 ± 50 nM.
  • 6
    In cell-attached patches, ATP activated a channel with a conductance of 48 ± 6 pS, that reversed direction near EK Channel open probability increased with elevation of [Ca2+]i, indicating the Ca2+ dependence of this channel.
  • 7
    These results demonstrate that rat osteoclasts express two types of purinoceptors. P2X receptors give rise to non-selective cation current. P2Y receptors mediate Ca2+ release from stores, causing activation of a Ca2+-dependent K+ channel.

Osteoclasts are the cells responsible for resorption of bone and other mineralized tissues, and participate in physiological processes such as bone remodelling and tooth eruption. These multinucleated cells arise from fusion of mononucleated precursors of the monocyte-macrophage lineage that originate in the bone marrow (Roodman, 1996). Osteoclasts exhibit different phases of activity, with cells alternating between motile and resorbing phases. Motile osteoclasts typically exhibit extensive pseudopods and are flattened in appearance (spread morphology). In contrast, resorbing osteoclasts lack extensive pseudopodia and are more dome shaped (rounded morphology). Resorption is accomplished by acidification of a compartment referred to as the resorption lacuna. Transport of H+ by an electrogenic H+-ATPase causes dissolution of the mineral phase of bone, while secreted hydrolytic enzymes digest the organic matrix (Roodman, 1996). Since H+ transport is electrogenic, ion channels are required to provide pathways to dissipate charge.

Previous studies have revealed that mammalian osteoclasts express a number of channel types, including an inwardly rectifying K+ channel (IRK1), a transient outwardly rectifying K+ channel (Kv1.3), H+ channels and Cl channels (Arkett, Dixon & Sims, 1992; Kelly, Dixon & Sims, 1992; Arkett, Dixon, Yang, Sakai, Minkin & Sims, 1994; Yamashita, Iahii, Ogata & Matsumoto, 1994; Kelly, Dixon & Sims, 1994; Nördstrom et al. 1995). The expression of channels is related to the morphology of the osteoclast, with spread osteoclasts exhibiting IRK1 and Cl current, whereas rounded osteoclasts exhibit Kv1.3 and Cl currents (Arkett et al. 1992, 1994; Hammerland, Parihar, Nemeth & Sanguinetti, 1994).

Extracellular nucleotides are important signalling molecules mediating a number of processes, including neurotrans-mission, mechanosensation and regulation of proliferation (Dubyak & El-Moatassim, 1993; Burnstock, 1996; Nakamura & Strittmatter, 1996). Nucleotides, released by damaged cells and activated platelets and leukocytes (Born & Kratzer, 1984), may act as paracrine factors in early responses to trauma and inflammation. Nucleotides act through two classes of purinoceptors, P2Xand P2Y (Burnstock, 1996; North, 1996). P2X receptors are a family of ligand-gated channels that are non-selective for cations, and in many cases permit Ca2+ influx (Collo et al. 1996). In contrast, P2Y purinoceptors are members of the seven transmembrane spanning family of receptors that couple via G proteins to phospholipase C, causing the generation of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and release of Ca2+ from intra-cellular stores (Burnstock, 1996).

Recent studies have revealed the presence of nucleotide receptors in osteoclasts. Rabbit osteoclasts respond to extracellular nucleotides with elevation of [Ca2+]i (Yu & Perrier, 1993). Exposure of murine osteoclasts to high concentrations of ATP leads to their permeabilization (Modderman, Weidema, Vrijheid-Lammers, Wassenaar & Nijweide, 1994). Furthermore, a P2Y2 (P2U) purinoceptor has been identified in human osteoclastoma, suggesting that at least this subtype is present in osteoclasts (Bowler, Birch, Gallagher & Bilbe, 1995). The regulation of osteoclast ion channels by nucleotides has not been described previously. In this report, we demonstrate that ATP activates two ionic conductances in mammalian osteoclasts via distinct signalling mechanisms. Portions of this work have appeared in abstract form (Weidema, Barbera, Dixon & Sims, 1996).


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  6. Acknowledgements

Osteoclast isolation

Osteoclasts were isolated from femora and tibiae of Wistar rat pups (up to 1 week old) that were killed by decapitation. Cells were plated onto plain or type I collagen-coated glass coverslips as described previously (Arkett et al. 1992). Coverslips with adherent osteoclasts were washed after 20 min to remove non-adherent cells and placed in culture medium consisting of Medium 199 with HCO3 (26 mm), Hepes (25 mm) (Gibco), antibiotics (100 u ml−1penicillin, 100 μg ml−1 streptomycin and 0.25 μg ml−1 amphotericin B) and heat-inactivated fetal bovine serum (15% v/v). Cells were studied within 14 h of isolation. Osteoclasts were identified as cells having multiple nuclei (≥3), and the identity of rounded osteoclasts was confirmed by counting nuclei upon disruption of the cell with a pipette at the end of recording.


For recording macroscopic currents, we used nystatin-perforated patch or conventional whole-cell configuration. The K+ electrode solution contained (mM): KCI, 140; Hepes, 20; MgCl2, 1; CaCl2 0.4; EGTA, 1 (∼100 nM free Ca2+); pH 7.2 (adjusted with KOH); 290 ± 5 mosmol l−1. In some experiments, the electrode solution contained CsCl to block K+ currents. In others, CI in the electrode solution was reduced to 30 mw (isosmotic substitution with aspartate) to shift the chloride equilibrium potential (ECl to negative potentials. Cells were superfused (1–2 ml min−1) with Na+solution consisting of (mM): NaCl, 130; KC1, 5; glucose, 10; MgCl2, 1; CaCl2, 1; and Hepes, 20; pH 7.4 (adjusted with NaOH); 290 ± 5 mosmol l−1. To examine the selectivity of the ATP-evoked current, [Na+]o was reduced by replacement with N-methyl-D-glucamine+. Currents were recorded with Axopatch-1D or 200A amplifiers (Axon Instruments), filtered (–3 dB at 1 kHz) and digitized at 2–5 kHz using pCLAMP 6.0 (Axon Instruments). Currents were also stored on videotape using a pulse code modulator. Current–voltage (I–V) relationships were obtained using voltage ramp protocols, where voltage was shifted from –100 to +100 mV over 340 ms. Experiments were performed at room temperature (21–25 °C).

Fluorescence recording of [Ca2+1]i

[Ca2+]i was measured using fura-2 fluorescence from single osteoclasts. Cells were loaded by incubation with 2 μM fura-2 acetoxymethylester (Molecular Probes) for 30–60 min at room temperature. After washing, the cells were incubated at 37 °C for 30–60 min to allow for ester hydrolysis. Coverslips containing fura-2-loaded cells were placed in a chamber (0.75 ml) mounted on a Nikon Diaphot inverted microscope and continuously superfused with Na+ solution. Cells were illuminated by epifluorescence with alternating 340 and 380 nm light from a Xenon lamp and a Nikon Fluor × 40 objective lens. The emission signal was filtered using a 510 nm bandpass filter, detected by a photomultiplier (Photon Technology International (PTI), South Brunswick, NJ, USA) and sampled at 5–20 ratios s−1 (Felix software, PTI). [Ca2+]i, was calculated from the ratio of the fluorescence intensities at 340 and 380 nm following correction for background. System calibration constants were obtained using fura-2 solutions as described by Grynkiewicz, Poenie & Tsien (1985). In experiments involving simultaneous patch clamp and fluorescence recordings, cells were loaded with fura-2 prior to establishing perforated patch or cell-attached configurations. In cases where the whole-cell configuration was used, 30 μM fura-2 salt was included in the electrode solution and EGTA was reduced to 0.01 mM. Current and Ca2+ traces were recorded simultaneously using Felix software to ensure proper temporal alignment, while currents were also recorded at high bandwidth on digital video tape and/or digitized using pCLAMP software.

Test solutions were applied to cells by local superfusion from micropipettes (5–10 μM diameter) positioned 30–50 μM from the cell (Picospritzer II, General Valve Corporation, Fairfield, NJ, USA). The delay in the application system was 50–150 ms, as determined by the shift of the reversal potential of IRK1 upon application of high K+ solution. Application of control solutions did not cause appreciable changes in membrane currents or [Ca2+]i. Agonists tested included ATP, adenosine 5’-O-3-thiotriphosphate (ATPγS), 2-methylthioadenosine 5’-triphosphate (2-MeSATP), AMP and adenosine. 2-MeSATP, charybdotoxin and apamin were from Research Biochemicals International. Kaliotoxin was from Alomone Labs (Jerusalem, Israel). Unless otherwise indicated, chemicals were from Sigma or BDH. Values are presented as means ± standard deviation.


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  6. Acknowledgements

Effects of extracellular ATP on whole-cell currents of osteoclasts

To study the effects of ATP on osteoclast conductances, we first used a K+-containing electrode solution, and held cells steadily at various potentials, to minimize the contribution of voltage-activated currents, such as Kv1.3 (Arkett et al. 1992, 1994). ATP was applied periodically to cells, allowing at least 4 min between applications for recovery. When held at –60 or –90 mV, ATP evoked inward currents that were rapid in onset and that declined with continued application (Fig. 1A). At –30 mV, ATP evoked an initial current that declined and was followed by oscillations of outward current. At 0 mV, ATP only elicited an outward current with small oscillations (Fig. 1A). This biphasic pattern suggested the sequential activation of two currents, an initial inward current and a later outward current. Support for this was obtained using voltage ramp commands to investigate the I–V relationship of the ATP-induced currents. The initial inward current was inwardly rectifying and reversed direction close to 0 mV, whereas the later current was linear and reversed close to –55 mV (Fig. 1B). Experiments described below were designed to separate and characterize each of these ATP-induced currents.


Figure 1. Extracellular ATP activates biphasic current response in rat osteoclast

A, whole-cell currents were recorded at various membrane potentials (indicated at left) using the nystatin-perforated patch configuration. ATP (50 μm; applied for the time indicated by the bar below the current traces) evoked a transient inward current at –60 and –90 mV. At –30 mV, ATP initially evoked an inward current that declined, with later development of an outward current. ATP only evoked an outward current with small oscillations at 0 mV. The cell was allowed to recover for at least 4 min between each application of ATP. B, I–V relationships showing the initial inwardly rectifying current, which reversed close to 0 mV, and the late linear current, which reversed around –55 mV. The I–V relationships were obtained from another osteoclast using voltage ramp commands (+20 to –80 mV in 200 ms from a holding potential of 0 mV at 1 Hz). Current traces under control conditions were subtracted from the ATP-induced currents traces. In both experiments, the pipette contained K+ solution with 30 mm Cl, and the bath contained regular Na+ solution.

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We have previously shown that osteoclasts express two phenotypes (Arkett et al. 1992). Spread osteoclasts are flattened, have lamellipodia, and express an inwardly rectifying K+ conductance (IRK1). In contrast, rounded osteoclasts are dome shaped, lack lamellipodia and express an outwardly rectifying K+ conductance (Kvl .3). Neither of these conductances were altered to any great extent by ATP (over the course of 20–40 s). The pattern of ATP-induced currents described above was observed more frequently in rounded than in spread osteoclasts. All the figures illustrate responses recorded in rounded osteoclasts plated on collagen-coated coverslips.

Non-selective cation current

To study the initial inward current in isolation, we blocked K+ currents with Cs+ in the electrode solution and shifted ECl to –40 mV by reducing [Cl] in the recording electrode solution. Under these conditions, ATP caused activation of the inward current at –60 mV with a very short latency (50–200 ms), that inactivated within several seconds (Fig. 2A). The I–V relationship of the ATP-induced current was determined using voltage ramp commands, by subtracting the current recorded under control conditions. The ATP-induced current showed inward rectification and reversed direction close to 0 mV with 135 him Na+ in the bath (Fig. 2B; mean reversal potential +3 ± 4 mV, n= 14), similar to that observed with K+ in the electrode solution (Fig. 1B). Taken together, these data indicate that ATP activates a non-selective cation current that is not blocked by Cs+ and rule out the involvement of Cl current. Further evidence for cation selectivity was obtained by reducing [Na+]o to 10 mM (Na+ replaced by N-methyl-D-glucamine+), which shifted the reversal potential to –21 ± 3 mV (n= 8; Fig. 2B). Based on rapid activation and inactivation, cation selectivity and inward rectification, the inward current activated by ATP in osteoclasts has properties consistent with involvement of the P2X class of ligand-gated ion channels (North, 1996). Although we did not examine in detail the potency of various agonists, inward currents were activated by ATP (from 1 to 100 μM) as well as 2-MeSATP (10μM) and the poorly hydrolysable analogue ATPγS (50 μM, see below). Sapid inactivation of the current and variability of repeated responses in many cells precluded the accurate determination of dose–response relationships.


Figure 2. ATP activates an inwardly rectifying non-selective cation current

A, ATP (10 μM) activated inward current at –60 mV that peaked rapidly and then inactivated. B, I–V relationships of ATP-induced currents were determined using voltage ramp commands, with current recorded during response to ATP (50 μM) corrected by subtraction of current under control conditions. The ATP-induced difference current showed inward rectification and reversed direction at –4 mV with 135 mM Na+ in the bath (reversal potential indicated by arrow). Reduction of [Na+]o to 10 mM shifted the reversal potential to –24 mV, consistent with a non-selective cation conductance (reversal potential indicated by arrow). Currents were recorded using the nystatin-perforated patch configuration. The electrode solution contained Cs+ to block K+ currents and 30 mm Cl to set ECl at –40 mV.

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K+-selective current

The later phase of the current activated by ATP was outward (see Fig. 1), and was blocked by Cs+ in the electrode solution, suggesting it was due to K+ channels. To study the voltage dependence of the current, we used K+ electrode solutions and voltage ramps. During these experiments, we set the holding potential at 0 mV to inactivate most of the Kv1.3 channels (Arkett et al. 1994). Under these conditions, ATP induced an outward current that peaked and then declined (Fig. 3A). The I–V relationship of the ATP-induced current was linear and reversed direction close to –75 mV with [K+]o at 5 mm (Fig. 3B). When [K+]o was increased (by substitution of Na+) to shift the equilibrium potential for K+ (EK) positively, the reversal potential also shifted positively (Fig. 3C). The reversal potential shifted 51 mV per 10-fold elevation of [K+]o (Fig. 3D) suggesting that ATP activated a current that was largely selective for K+. The linear K+ current (IK), activated by nucleotides, was observed in thirty of fifty-five rounded osteoclasts studied, and is distinct from all K+ currents previously described in mammalian osteoclasts (Dixon, Arkett & Sims, 1993).


Figure 3. ATP activates a voltage-independent K+ conductance

A, ATP (10 μM, applied for the time indicated by the bar) transiently activated current in an osteoclast. Currents were measured at various membrane potentials (indicated at the right) during voltage ramp commands, revealing outward currents at potentials positive to EK and inward current negative to EKB, current traces from the cell in A showing I–V relationships obtained under control conditions (a), during ATP application (b) and after recovery (c). ATP elicited a linear current that reversed direction near EKC, I–V relationships of ATP-induced currents (determined by subtraction of traces as in B) recorded from three osteoclasts studied with various [K+]o. The reversal potential shifted positively with elevation of [K+]o, plotted in D, with each symbol representing a different cell. Linear fit of the data revealed a slope of 51 mV per 10-fold change of [K+]o. K+ electrode solution was used for all traces shown here, and cells were held at 0 mV to inactivate Kv1.3 channels (see text).

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Nucleotides induce transient elevation of [Ca2+]i

Nucleotides, acting on the P2Y class of purinoceptors, mediate an elevation of [Ca2+]i in many cell systems (Burnstock, 1996), including rabbit osteoclasts (Yu & Ferrier, 1993). Many K+ channels are Ca2+-dependent, so we considered the possibility that nucleotide-induced changes of [Ca2+]i contribute to the activation of IK. Using fura-2-loaded rat osteoclasts, ATP was found to cause rapid elevation of [Ca2+]i with transient and sustained phases (Fig. 4A). Following the initial peak response, oscillations of [Ca2+]i were frequently observed in rounded osteoclasts (Fig. 4B). In the example shown, oscillations were elicited by 2-MeSATP. ATP and ATPγS also elicited oscillations in other osteoclasts (not shown). In contrast, neither AMP nor adenosine (10–50μM) caused any Ca2+ response in cells which subsequently responded to ATP. These data argue against the involvement of PI receptors activated by adenosine, formed from breakdown of ATP by ectonucleotidases.


Figure 4. Nucleotides cause transient elevation of [Ca2+i in fura-2-loaded rat osteoclasts

A, ATP (10 μM), applied for the time indicated by the bar, induced an increase in [Ca2+]i with transient and sustained phases. B, oscillations of [Ca2+], were elicited by nucleotides in some osteoclasts (10 μM 2-MeSATP for this cell). Nucleotide-induced elevations of [Ca2+]i persisted when the cell was bathed in Ca2+-free bath solution (response at the right, recorded after 4 min in Ca2+-free bath solution), indicating an involvement of intracellular Ca2+ stores.

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To investigate the involvement of intracellular Ca2+-stores, cells were superfused with Ca2+-free bath solution (with 0.5mM EGTA) to eliminate Ca2+ influx. Under these conditions, the nucleotide-induced rise of [Ca2+]i was still present, and oscillations persisted (Fig. 4B, right-hand side), providing evidence for the release of Ca2+ from stores. Nucleotide-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i was seen in greater than 90% of spread and rounded osteoclasts, with more than forty cells tested of each morphology. However, the amplitude of nucleotide-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i was generally smaller in spread cells.

Relationship between nucleotide-induced [Ca24]i transients and K+ current

The elevations of [Ca2+]i closely resembled the patterns of nucleotide-induced outward currents shown above (Figs 1 and 3), consistent with Ca2+ activating IK. We used simultaneous patch clamp and fluorescence recordings to investigate the relation between [Ca2+]i and IK in individual fura-2-loaded osteoclasts. When nucleotides induced a transient elevation of [Ca2+]i followed by a plateau, IK activated with virtually the same time course (Fig. 5A). The correspondence between [Ca2+]i and IK was even more apparent in cells exhibiting oscillatory changes of [Ca2+]i (Fig. 5B). Close correlation between nucleotide-induced changes of [Ca2+]i and IK was seen in eleven cells, and provides evidence that this K+ current is activated by elevation of [Ca2+]i If this is correct, elevation of [Ca2+]i would be expected to precede activation of IK. As seen on an expanded time scale (Fig. 6A), elevation of [Ca2+]i did become apparent prior to the outward K+ current. Furthermore, IK was not observed in cells where nucleotides failed to elevate [Ca2+]i in combined fluorescence and patch clamp experiments. In contrast to the good correlation between Ca2+ elevation and activation of IK, the inward cation current (Ication) did not correspond well with Ca2+ elevation. Activation of Ication preceded elevation of [Ca2+]i and the current decayed while [Ca2+]i remained high (Fig. 6B).


Figure 5. Simultaneous patch clamp and fluorescence recordings reveal that the nucleotide induced K+ current is associated with an elevation of [Ca2+]i

A, K+ current (top trace, IK) was transiently activated by ATPγS (50 μm; applied as indicated by the bar), with time course corresponding closely to the elevation of [Ca2+]i in the same cell (bottom trace). K+ current at a membrane potential (Vm) of 0 mV was obtained from voltage ramps (–100 to +50 mV, every 2 s).B, correspondence between [Ca2+]i and IK is apparent in another osteoclast where 2-MeSATP (10 μm) induced oscillations of [Ca2+]i (bottom trace) accompanied by oscillations of IK (top trace). Currents in A were recorded in the whole-cell configuration, and currents in B were recorded using nystatin-perforated patch configuration.

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Figure 6. Time course of elevation of [Ca2+]i and activation of currents by nucleotides

A, rise of [Ca2+]i (top trace) induced by 2-MeSATP (10 μM applied at time indicated by vertical dashed line) was apparent prior to the activation of outward K+ current (bottom trace, IK, recorded at 0 mV). Trace shows the same response of Fig. 5B on an expanded time scale. B, in another cell, 2-MeSATP (10 μM) induced an inward cation current (bottom trace, Ication recorded at –30 mV), which preceded elevation of [Ca2+]i (top trace). IK was not very noticeable in this cell. Responses of fura-2-loaded cells to nucleotides were recorded using simultaneous patch clamp and fluorescence techniques.

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Ca2+ dependence of IK

To confirm the role of [Ca2+]i in activation of IK, we used the calcium ionophore 4Br-A23l87 to elevate [Ca2+]i in the absence of nucleotides. Using combined patch clamp and fluorescence recordings, 4Br-A23l87 induced a slow increase of [Ca2+]i accompanied by an increase of outward current (Fig. 7A). This outward current was identified as IK based on its linear I–V relationship and reversal at –70 ± 3 mV (n= 5). The Ca2+ sensitivity was determined by plotting IK at 0 mV as a function of [Ca2+]i (Fig. 7B). For this analysis, the amplitude of IK was corrected for the basal current level at 0 mV (which represented persistent current through Kv1.3 channels) and normalized for cell capacitance. The response shown in Fig. 7B is represented by open circles in Fig. 7B, and was fitted with a sigmoidal function (continuous line) with half-maximal activation at 550 nM [Ca2+]i and a Hill coefficient of 5.4. Mean values for four cells revealed half-maximal activation at 580 ± 50 nM, and a Hill coefficient of 5.5 ± 1.5. The correlation between IK and [Ca2+]i was determined during the rising phase of responses to 4Br-A23l87, but qualitatively similar relationships were observed during the recovery period (data not shown). We confirmed that IK activated by ATP showed a similar dependence on [Ca2+]i The open squares in Fig. 7B represent the initial phase of the response shown in Fig. 5B, and correspond well with that seen in response to the ionophore. In nine spread osteoclasts studied, ATP did not elicit an outward K+ current as described above for rounded osteoclasts. However, fluorescence studies revealed that in the spread cells the peak of the Ca2+ transient elicited by nucleotides rarely exceeded 400 nM. Since this may have been insufficient to activate IK, 4Br-A23l87 was used to elevate [Ca2+]i above 800 nM, under which condition IK still did not activate in five spread osteoclasts tested.


Figure 7. Ca2+ sensitivity of IK studied in the absence of nucleotides

Whole-cell current and [Ca2+]i were recorded simultaneously in fura-2-loaded osteoclasts. A, local superfusion of 4Br-A23l87 (5μm, applied as indicated by the bar) induced a slow increase of [Ca2+]i (bottom trace) accompanied by an increase of IK (top trace, recorded at 0 mV, normalized for cell capacitance). B, Ca2+ sensitivity was determined from the amplitude of IK at 0 mV as a function of [Ca2+]i for three osteoclasts. O represent the response in part A (each symbol is the mean of 50 data points), and were fitted with a sigmoidal function (continuous line) revealing half-maximal activation at 550 nM [Ca2+]i and a Hill coefficient of 5.4. Data obtained using 4Br-A23l87 to elevate [Ca2+]i in another osteoclast are shown as ▴. The response of a cell to ATP (initial phase of the response in Fig. 5B) is shown as D for comparison, and corresponds well with that seen in the absence of nucleotides.

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Single channel conductance of IK

To examine the channels underlying nucleotide-induced IK, we studied channel activity in cell-attached patches, while monitoring [Ca2+]i in the same cell. These experiments were carried out with 135 mm K+ in the pipette solution, so that the activation of Kv1.3 channels with depolarization, as well as their reversal at EK gave an indication of the resting membrane potential of the cell. In unstimulated cells, there were typically few channel openings at negative potentials. However, upon application of nucleotides to the cell membrane outside the recording pipette, a transient increase in channel activity occurred, giving rise to inward current even at very negative potentials (Fig. 8). Two current sweeps are superimposed in Fig. 8A, showing the control I–V relationship with no channel activity, and the channel current recorded during stimulation with ATPγS (traces truncated at +20 mV to eliminate Kv1.3 channel currents). The unitary I–V relationship had a slope conductance of 50 pS and an extrapolated reversal near EK (as indicated by reversal of current through Kv1.3; Fig. 8A). Similar single channel currents were observed in eight of fourteen cells, which showed nucleotide-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i, with a mean channel conductance of 48 ± 6 pS.


Figure 8. Single channel currents elicited by nucleotides in rat osteoclasts

Currents were recorded in the cell-attached patch configuration and [Ca2+]i monitored simultaneously. A, two current sweeps are superimposed, showing the control I–V relationship with no channel activity, and activation of a channel by 50 μM ATPγS applied to the cell membrane outside the recording pipette. Electrode potential (Vpip) was shifted using a ramp command from +100 to –100 mV every 5 s (300 ms duration), and blank traces were used for leak subtraction. Voltage (Vpip) was not corrected for the resting membrane potential of the cell, which was estimated to be –40 mV based on the activation range of Kv1.3 channels (not shown). Single channel conductance was estimated to be 50 pS. B, channel open probability (NPo, top trace) was determined from average current above baseline divided by unitary channel current for two periods between ramp voltage commands and one during the voltage ramp, when Vpip was 0 mV. Open probability was closely related to the elevation of [Ca2+]i, shown in the bottom trace for the same cell. The channel currents in A were recorded during the peak elevation of [Ca2+]i shown in B. The cell was bathed in Na+ solution and the pipette contained 140 mM KCl electrode solution.

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Channel open probability was quantified from the average current above baseline divided by unitary current amplitude (NPo, where N is number of channels and Po is open probability). NPo increased transiently in response to ATPγS (Fig. 8B, upper panel), and was correlated with the rise of [Ca2+]i (Fig. 8B, lower panel; representative of 3 cells). A 50 pS channel was also apparent in some patches accompanying seal formation, possibly reflecting a local elevation of [Ca2+]i In some patches studied, nucleotides caused hyperpolarization of cells, which was apparent as a shift in the reversal of current through Kv1.3. Changes of membrane potential were studied in current clamp, where ATP was found to cause brief depolarization followed by hyperpolarization (3 cells, data not shown). Taken together, these observations support the interpretation that an intermediate conductance K+ channel underlies the whole-cell IK activated by nucleotides. IK was not blocked by apamin (100 nM, 3 cells), a blocker of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels; charybdotoxin (100 nM, 4 cells), a blocker of large conductance Ca2+-activated K+channels; or kaliotoxin (1 μM, 3 cells), a blocker of intermediate and large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels. The effectiveness of charybdotoxin and kaliotoxin was confirmed by their ability to inhibit Kv1.3 current (Arkett et al. 1994).


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  6. Acknowledgements

We have demonstrated that extracellular ATP activates two distinct conductances, which have not been described previously in mammalian osteoclasts. The initial inward cation current occurred with short latency, consistent with activation of ligand-gated P2X receptor channels. The later current was outward, more prolonged, and associated with P2Y receptor-mediated Ca2+ release, consistent with activation of Ca2+-dependent K+ channels.

Comparison of nucleotide-induced cation current with P2X currents in other cell types

Several observations establish that the initial current elicited by ATP in osteoclasts is non-selective for cations. This current reversed direction close to 0 mV, with either K+ or Cs+ in the pipette solution and Na+ in the bath. Since the equilibrium potential for Cl was –40 mV in these experiments, reversal close to 0 mV indicates that the current is not selective for Cl. Further evidence for cation selectivity was provided by the negative shift of the reversal potential seen upon decreasing extracellular Na+ concentration. Another feature of the ATP-induced inward current was strong inward rectification. Taken together, these observations are consistent with the presence of P2X receptors in rat osteoclasts. As expected for a ligand-gated P2X channel, the inward current activated rapidly, with a delay of 50–200 ms, although this delay is probably overestimated because of a delay in the system used to apply ATP. Finally, in the continued presence of ATP, the inward current inactivated within seconds. When expressed in heterologous systems, the cloned P2X channels exhibit inactivation rates both faster (P2X1 P2X3) and slower (P2X2, P2X4, P2X5, P2X6) than the native channel in osteoclasts (Collo et al. 1996). It should be noted that expression of multiple P2X subtypes in a single cell can result in the formation of heteromultimeric channels, which differ in their functional characteristics from homo-multimeric P2X channels (North, 1996). Accordingly, classification of the osteoclastic P2X receptor subtype(s) must await molecular studies.

ATP, in the absence of extracellular Mg2+, has been shown to induce a large non-selective conductance in marine osteoclasts (Modderman et al. 1994). This is consistent with activation of P2Z receptors, which form pores permeable to large molecules up to 800 Da in macrophages and macrophage-like cell lines (Hickman, Semrad & Silverstein, 1996). The P2Z receptor has recently been identified as a member of the P2X receptor family (P2X7), which mediates formation of cytolytic pores in the absence of Mg2+ (Surprenant, Rassendren, Kawashima, North & Buell, 1996). However, the P2X current observed in rat osteoclasts differs from the murine P2Z current in a number of respects. The murine P2Z conductance does not inactivate, has a linear I–V relationship, and is only activated by ATP at millimolar concentrations in the absence of Mg2+(Modderman et al. 1994).

ATP-activated non-selective cation current in osteoclasts exhibits some features in common with currents previously described in macrophages, a cell type that arises in the bone marrow from a common hematopoietic progenitor. In peritoneal murine and rat macrophages, ATP induces a non-selective cation current that rapidly activates but does not completely inactivate (Alonso-Torre & Trautmann, 1993; Naumov, Kaznacheyeva, Kiselyov, Kuryshev, Mamin & Mozhayeva, 1995). The ATP-activated channel in rat macrophages exhibits a relatively high permeability for Ca2+, and thus is an important Ca2+ influx pathway (Alonso-Torre & Trautmann, 1993). A number of P2X receptor subtypes have been found to be permeable to Ca2+, with a permeability ratio of Ca2+: Na+ of 4:1, when ion activities are taken into account (Collo et al. 1996; North, 1996). The contribution of P2X receptors to Ca2+ influx in osteoclasts remains to be determined. The P2X current in rat osteoclasts also has properties resembling those of ATP-induced currents in megakaryocytes, based on ionic selectivity, and rapid activation and inactivation (Somasundaram & Mahaut-Smith, 1994).

Nucleotide-induced activation of K+ conductance

The later phase of the ATP-induced current in osteoclasts has a linear I–V relationship and is selective for K+, based on its reversal close to EK over a range of K+ gradients and a 51 mV shift per 10-fold change in [K+]o. The deviation from the predicted 59 mV shift for a pure K+ current may reflect limited permeability of the channel to other cations, such as Na+, some residual P2X current or activation of a small chloride current. In this regard, outwardly rectifying chloride conductances have been described in osteoclasts, activated by osmotic swelling (Kelly et al. 1992) or extracellular Ca2+ (Fujita, Matsumoto, Kawashima, Ogata, Fujita & Yamashita, 1996). However, in experiments where IK was inhibited by Cs+, there was no evidence for a contribution of a chloride conductance to the initial current activated by ATP (e.g. Fig. 2).

IK activated with a longer delay than the P2X current, suggesting the involvement of second messengers. Extracellular nucleotides, acting on P2Y receptors, induce an elevation of [Ca2+]i in many cells (Dubyak & El-Moatassim, 1993; Burnstock, 1996), including rabbit osteoclasts (Yu & Ferrier, 1993). We have confirmed this observation in rat osteoclasts, and shown that nucleotide-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i persists in Ca2+-free bath solution. Accordingly, we conclude that rat osteoclasts possess two classes of purinoceptors, P2X and P2Y (also confirmed in rabbit osteoclasts, data not shown). Using combined patch clamp and fluorescence techniques, we found that IK closely paralleled changes in [Ca2+]i Furthermore, in cells where oscillations of [Ca2+]i were apparent, oscillations of IK were also evident. Such oscillations persisted when cells were held under voltage clamp, indicating that changes of membrane potential are not required. In contrast, oscillations of [Ca2+]i in the Jurkat T cell line require changes in membrane potential (Grissmer, Lewis & Cahalan, 1992).

The calcium sensitivity of the osteoclast IK was studied using the ionophore 4Br-A23l87 in combined patch clamp and fluorescence experiments. Ionophore-induced elevation of [Ca2+]i activated a linear current which reversed close to EK, similar to the ATP-induced current. The K+ current was strongly dependent on [Ca2+]i, with half-maximal activation at 580 nM [Ca2+]i and a Hill coefficient of 5.5. Similar Hill coefficients have been reported for Ca2+-activated K+ current in other systems (Grissmer et al. 1992; Köhler et al. 1996), and suggest that multiple Ca2+-binding sites are involved in channel opening. Channel activation by ionophore in the absence of nucleotides emphasizes the primary role of [Ca2+]i in activation of IK.

Several properties of the Ca2+-dependent K+ current provide an indication of the type of channels expressed in osteoclasts. The linear I–V relationship indicates a lack of voltage dependency, a feature that distinguishes this current from many other Ca2+-dependent K+ currents (Haylett & Jenkinson, 1990). A large conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channel (150 pS) has been characterized in avian osteoclasts (Weidema, Ravesloot, Panyi, Nijweide & Ypey, 1993), but the avian channel is strongly voltage dependent, with open probability increasing at more positive potentials. Other K+ currents reported in osteoclasts, such as Kv1.3 and IRK1, have non-linear I–V relationships and are not activated by Ca2+ (Ravesloot, Ypey, Vrijheid-Lammers & Nijweide, 1989; Kelly et al. 1992; Arkett et al. 1992, 1994; Hammerland et al. 1994).

An indication of the type of channel underlying the whole-cell IK came from studies in the cell-attached patch configuration. Under these conditions, stimulation of osteoclasts with ATP caused elevation of [Ca2+]i which was accompanied by increased channel activity. This channel had a unitary conductance of 50 pS and no apparent voltage dependence. Furthermore, the channel current reversed near the predicted, EK, as expected for a K+-selective channel. Since nucleotides were applied to the rest of the cell membrane, and not directly to channels in the recording pipette, activation of this channel must involve a diffusible cytoplasmic signal. Based upon these observations, this intermediate conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channel is a likely candidate to account for the whole-cell IK activated by nucleotides in osteoclasts. A similar current is activated in macrophages by ATP (Alonso-Torre & Trautmann, 1993). Studies of Ca2+-dependent K+ channels in lymphocytes revealed two classes of channels, of small and intermediate conductance (Grissmer et al. 1992). The small conductance channel (4–7 pS) is voltage independent and apamin sensitive, whereas the intermediate conductance channel (40–60pS) is insensitive to apamin but blocked by charybdotoxin. Within the class of small conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels, two major groups can be distinguished based on their pharmacology (Hanselmann & Grissmer, 1996). The first is blocked by charybdotoxin, which also blocks many large conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels. The second group is blocked by apamin. The IK activated by ATP in rat osteoclasts was not blocked by apamin, charybdotoxin or kaliotoxin, but did show Ca2+sensitivity similar to the small conductance channel described by Grissmer et al. (1992). Kaliotoxin blocks intermediate (60 pS) and large conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels in neurons (Crest et al. 1992).

Two small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels (9–11 pS) were recently cloned from rat and human brain (Köhler et al. 1996). Expression of the mRNA for these homologous channels results in Ca2+-dependent K+ currents that are voltage independent and differ in their sensitivity to apamin. The Ca2+ sensitivity of these cloned channels is similar to that reported for a number of native K+ channels, including those in lymphocytes (Grissmer et al. 1992) and osteoclasts. Thus, nucleotides activate a Ca2+-dependent K+ channel not previously reported in mammalian osteoclasts. The insensitivity of the osteoclast K+ channel to charybdotoxin and apamin distinguishes it from Ca2+-dependent K+ channels in other cell types.

Possible role of nucleotides in regulation of osteoclast function

ATP accumulates in the extracellular fluid at sites of inflammation and tissue injury (Born & Kratzer, 1984; Osipchuk & Cahalan, 1992), where it may function as a local mediator. In this regard, osteoclastic resorption is enhanced at sites of inflammation (Wiebe, Hafezi, Sandhu, Sims & Dixon, 1996). Under physiological conditions, nucleotides may act as autocrine/paracrine signalling molecules following their secretion by members of the ATP-binding cassette family of transport proteins, such as P-glycoprotein (Al-Awqati, 1995). P-glycoprotein has recently been identified in calcifying chondrocytes and osteoblasts (Mangham et al. 1996), suggesting an additional source of ATP to act on osteoclasts. Osteoclastic bone resorption has been shown to be inhibited by the non-selective P2-antagonist suramin (Yoneda, Williams, Rhine, Boyce, Dunstan & Mundy, 1995), suggesting that purinoceptors are involved in regulation of osteoclast number or activity.

It has been suggested that purinoceptors are involved in mechanosensation (Nakamura & Strittmatter, 1996). Heterologous expression of P2Y1 receptors in oocytes renders them mechanosensitive through an autocrine mechanism involving release of ATP. Since bone is known to remodel in response to mechanical stimuli, it is tempting to speculate that purinoceptors mediate mechanotransduction in bone cells such as osteoclasts. It has been suggested that in other systems P2 purinoceptors play a role in cell fusion and apoptosis (Di Virgilio, 1995), processes that are important in the formation and death of osteoclasts (Kameda, Ishikawa & Tsutsui, 1995; Roodman, 1996).

We have shown that ATP activates P2Xand P2Y purinoceptors on rat osteoclasts. Responses were predominantly observed in rounded osteoclasts, rather than spread cells, suggesting that the functional expression of these receptors is regulated. Activation of these receptors results in opening of non-selective cations channels, transient elevation of [Ca2+]i and complex changes in membrane potential. It is possible that P2X channels provide a Ca2+-influx pathway, which contributes to elevation of [Ca2+]i Subsequent activation of IK hyper-polarizes the membrane potential, further enhancing Ca2+ influx. How these complex responses to extracellular ATP contribute to the regulation of osteoclast number or activity is yet to be determined.

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  2. Abstract
  6. Acknowledgements

This study was supported by The Arthritis Society. S. J. Dixon is supported by a Development Grant and S. M. Sims by a Scientist Award from the Medical Research Council of Canada.