Quantitative transmission electron microscope methods were used to determine the response of functionally inactive avian medullary bone osteoclasts to parathyroid hormone (PTH). Egg-lying Japanese quail were used during a period of the egg cycle when medullary bone was not being resorbed for egg shell calcification and when medullary bone osteoclasts were functionally inactive. Ruffled borders adjacent to bone surfaces were rarely, if ever, found on these cells. 20 min after the administration of PTH, over 70% of the osteoclast profiles had ruffled borders adjacent to bone surfaces. These ruffled borders were bounded by filamentous-rich "clear zones" and resembled ruffled borders found on functionally active cells. There was also a marked increase in plasma calcium levels after PTH administration. This study demonstrates that PTH stimulates the de novo generation of ruffled borders on osteoclasts in vivo and suggests that osteoclasts may be involved in the acute regulation of calcium metabolism by exogenous PTH.

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