Polymer Science Faculty Research

Expression and ultrastructural immunolocalization of a major 66 kDa phosphoprotein synthesized by chicken osteoblasts during mineralization in vitro

William Landis, The University of Akron


Embryonic chicken osteoblasts cultured over a 30 day period were used as a model system for studying the expression of bone phosphoproteins during cellular differentiation and the possible role of these proteins in extracellular matrix mineralization. Accumulation of total phosphoprotein in the cultures, as determined by O-phosphoserine (Ser-P) and O-phosphothreonine (Thr-P) amino acid analysis, revealed a greater than 10-fold increase over the 30 day period. Total phosphoprotein synthesis, as assessed by (32P)-, (3H)-Ser-P, and (14C)-Thr-P protein labeling, showed the highest levels concurrent with initial mineral deposition within the matrix. The major phosphoprotein present in chicken bones and synthesized by the cultured osteoblasts had a molecular weight of approximately 66 kDa. This 66 kDa bone phosphoprotein (66 kDa BPP) was purified to homogeneity and was used for antibody production. Application of this antibody in Western blot analysis revealed that 66 kDa BPP was present only in protein extracts of mineralizing cultured osteoblasts and was absent in cultures of non-mineralizing chondrocytes, myoblasts, and tendon fibroblasts. The 66 kDa BPP in vitro accumulated continuously in the extracellular matrix in a manner that paralleled both phosphoprotein synthesis and total phospho-amino acid production. A comparison of the results obtained in vitro to those from developing embryonic tibiae in vivo demonstrated a similar qualitative and temporal expression of phosphoprotein and a continual accumulation of 66 kDa BPP in the matrix with advancing mineralization and developmental age. Ultrastructural immunocytochemistry using the 66 kDa BPP antibody and the protein A-gold technique revealed specific immunolabeling over electron-dense regions of mineralization in the cultures that appeared identical to the distribution of labeling observed in vivo (McKee et al.: Connect. Tissue Res., 21:21-29, 1989; Anat. Rec., 228:77-92, 1990). These results demonstrate that this major 66 kDa BPP was expressed concurrently with other differentiated osteoblast functions and suggests that it may play a role in the initiation or regulation of mineralization.