High capacity Na+/H+ exchange activity in mineralizing osteoblasts

Li Liu, Paul H. Schlesinger, Nicole M. Slack, Peter A. Friedman, Harry C. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Osteoblasts synthesize bone in polarized groups of cells sealed by tight junctions. Large amounts of acid are produced as bone mineral is precipitated. We addressed the mechanism by which cells manage this acid load by measuring intracellular pH (pHi) in non-transformed osteoblasts in response to weak acid or bicarbonate loading. Basal pHi in mineralizing osteoblasts was ∼7.3 and decreased by ∼1.4 units upon replacing extracellular Na+ with N-methyl-D-glucamine. Loading with 40mM acetic or propionic acids, in normal extracellular Na+, caused only mild cytosolic acidification. In contrast, in Na+-free solutions, weak acids reduced pHi dramatically. After Na+ reintroduction, pHi recovered rapidly, in keeping with Na+/H+ exchanger (NHE) activity. Sodium-dependent pHi recovery from weak acid loading was inhibited by amiloride with the Ki consistent with NHEs. NHE1 and NHE6 were expressed strongly, and expression was upregulated highly, by mineralization, in human osteoblasts. Antibody labeling of mouse bone showed NHE1 on basolateral surfaces of all osteoblasts. NHE6 occurred on basolateral surfaces of osteoblasts mainly in areas of mineralization. Conversely, elevated HCO3- alkalinized osteoblasts, and pH recovered in medium containing Cl-, with or without Na+, in keeping with Na+-independent Cl-/HCO3- exchange. The exchanger AE2 also occurred on the basolateral surface of osteoblasts, consistent with Cl-/HCO3- exchange for elimination of metabolic carbonate. Overexpression of NHE6 or knockdown of NHE1 in MG63 human osteosarcoma cells confirmed roles of NHE1 and NHE6 in maintaining pHi. We conclude that in mineralizing osteoblasts, slightly basic basal pHi is maintained, and external acid load is dissipated, by high-capacity Na+/H+ exchange via NHE1 and NHE6.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1702-1712
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


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