Osteoclast resorb bone in an acid compartment formed by the bone-attachment site. The low pH of the resorption compartment provides a lysosome-like milieu suitable for acid proteases to degrade collagen. Solubilization of the hydroxyapatite that makes up bone mineral consumes about 2 moles of protons per moles of calcium dissolved, requiring a massive proton flux to maintain a low pH in the resorption compartment. In order to determine how the osteoclast maintains a physiological cytoplasmic pH while secreting massive amounts of acid, we studied the intracellular pH of osteoclasts using esterified fluorescein derivatives while controlling the electrolyte composition of the medium. The principal finding is that osteoclasts have a high capacity for chloride/bicarbonate exchange which enables them to maintain normal intracellular pH in the face of a large loading of base equivalents. Thus, the overall process of proton secretion during bone resorption is similar to the polarized acid elimination by renal epithelia, involving a proton pump on one surface of the cell, and a Cl-/HCO3- exchange to maintain cytoplasmic pH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-595
Number of pages7
JournalBollettino della Societa italiana di biologia sperimentale
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1989


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