Cancellous Bone Remodeling Occurs in Specialized Compartments Lined by Cells Expressing Osteoblastic Markers



We describe a sinus, referred to as a bone remodeling compartment (BRC), which is intimately associated with cancellous bone remodeling. The compartment is lined on its marrow side by flattened cells and on its osseous side by the remodeling bone surface, resembling a roof of flattened cells covering the bone surface. The flat marrow lining cells are in continuity with the bone lining cells at the margins of the BRC. We examined a large number of diagnostic bone biopsy specimens received during recent years in the department. Furthermore, 10 patients (8 women and 2 men, median age 56 [40–69] years) with the high turnover disease of primary hyperparathyroidism who were treated with parathyroidectomy and followed for 3 years were included in the histomorphometric study. Bone samples for the immuno-enzyme staining were obtained from an amputated extremity of child. The total cancellous bone surface covered by BRC decreases by 50% (p < 0.05) following normalization of turnover and is paralleled by a similar 50% decrease in remodeling surface (p < 0.05). The entire eroded surface and two-thirds of the osteoid surface are covered by a BRC. BRC-covered uncompleted walls are 30% (p < 0.05) thinner than those without a BRC. This indicates that the BRC is invariably associated with the early phases of bone remodeling, that is, bone resorption, whereas it closes during the late part of bone formation. Immuno-enzyme staining shows that the flat marrow lining cells are positive for alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, and osteonectin, suggesting that they are bone cells. The first step in cancellous bone remodeling is thought to be the lining cells digesting the unmineralized matrix membrane followed by their disappearance and the arrival of the bone multicellular unit (BMU). We suggest that the lining cell barrier persists during bone remodeling; that the old lining cells become the marrow lining cells, allowing bone resorption and bone formation to proceed under a common roof of lining cells; that, at the end of bone formation, new bone lining cells derived from the flattened osteoblasts replace the marrow lining cells thereby closing the BRC; and that the two layers of lining cells eventually becomes a single layer. The integrity of the osteocyte-lining cell system is reestablished by the new generation of lining cells. The BRC most likely serves multiple purposes, including efficient exchange of matrix constituents and minerals, routing, monitoring, or modulating bone cell recruitment, and possibly the anatomical basis for the coupling of bone remodeling.