We injected NaH2(33)PO4 into normal 14-d-old embryonic chicks and examined the long bones by both radioautography and biochemical analyses from 10 to 240 min after the injection was completed. At 30 min, determination of the radiographic grain density revealed that 33P was concentrated principally in fibroblasts, preosteoblasts, and osteoblasts. With time, there was a progressive increase in the density of silver grains located over both the osteogenic cells and the regions of uncalcified (osteoid) and calcified extracellular organic matrices. Biochemical analyses identified 33P-O-phosphoserine as the major 33P component in glutaraldehyde-treated whole demineralized bone tissue and in EDTA-soluble, nondiffusible proteins extracted from the bones, both at the same time periods that 33P-induced silver grains were visualized by radioautography. 33P-O-phosphothreonine was also identified in experiments using a dosage of 10 mCi per embryo. The results provide the first combined direct biochemical and radioautographic identification that phosphoproteins are synthesized in bone and are located morphologically at the sites of mineralization. The data provide further evidence that phosphoproteins play a critical role in the biological calcification of vertebrate tissues.

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