The ultrastructure of osteoclasts was examined in fetal rat bones after stimulation or inhibition of resorption in culture. A central ruffled border area completely encircled by a clear zone was considered to represent the resorbing system of the cell. The proportion of ruffled border and clear zone in osteoclast cross sections was compared with changes in bone resorption as measured by the release of previously incorporated radioactive calcium (45Ca). In control cultures 55% of the osteoclast cross sections showed an area closely apposed to bone and this consisted mainly of clear zone; only 11% showed ruffled borders. Treatment with parathyroid hormone (PTH) increased 45Ca release, increased the frequency of finding areas closely apposed to bone (79%), and markedly increased the frequency of the ruffled border area (64%).

Colchicine given concurrently with PTH decreased the number of osteoclasts. Colchicine or calcitonin treatment after PTH stimulation decreased the proportion of ruffled border area significantly by 1 h; this was followed by a decrease in 45Ca release. These inhibited osteoclasts resembled osteoclasts from control, unstimulated cultures, suggesting that the cells had returned to their inactive state.

Colchicine-treated osteoclasts also showed a loss of microtubules and a massive accumulation of 100 Å filaments, suggesting that synthesis of microtubular subunits had increased.

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