In vivo fluorescence imaging of bone-resorbing osteoclasts

Toshiyuki Kowada, Junichi Kikuta, Atsuko Kubo, Masaru Ishii, Hiroki Maeda, Shin Mizukami, Kazuya Kikuchi

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98 Citations (Scopus)


Osteoclasts are giant polykaryons responsible for bone resorption. Because an enhancement or loss of osteoclast function leads to bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteopetrosis, real-time imaging of osteoclast activity in vivo can be of great help for the evaluation of drugs. Herein, pH-activatable chemical probes BAp-M and BAp-E have been developed for the detection of bone-resorbing osteoclasts in vivo. Their acid dissociation constants (pK a) were determined as 4.5 and 6.2 by fluorometry in various pH solutions. These pK a values should be appropriate to perform selective imaging of bone-resorbing osteoclasts, because synthesized probes cannot fluoresce intrinsically at physiological pH and the pH in the resorption pit is lowered to about 4.5. Furthermore, BAp-M and BAp-E have a bisphosphonate moiety that enabled the probes to localize on bone tissues. The hydroxyapatite (HA) binding assay in vitro was, therefore, performed to confirm the tight binding of the probes to the bone tissues. Our probes showed intense fluorescence at low pH values but no fluorescence signal under physiological pH conditions on HA. Finally, we applied the probes to in vivo imaging of osteoclasts by using intravital two-photon microscopy. As expected, the fluorescence signals of the probes were locally observed between the osteoclasts and bone tissues, that is, in resorption pits. These results indicate that our pH-activatable probes will prove to be a powerful tool for the selective detection of bone-resorbing osteoclasts in vivo, because this is the first instance where in vivo imaging has been conducted in a low-pH region created by bone-resorbing osteoclasts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17772-17776
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Nov 9


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