The Journal of Experimental Medicine
© 2008 Malaval et al.
The Rockefeller University Press $30.00
J. Exp. Med. Vol. 205 No. 5 1145-1153 www.jem.org/cgi/doi/
Proteins of the SIBLING (small, integrin-bind-
ing ligand N-linked glycoprotein) ( 1 ) family
(osteopontin/secreted phosphoprotein-1 [OPN/
SPP-1], bone sialoprotein/integrin-binding sia-
loprotein [BSP/IBSP], dentin sialophospho-
protein, dentin matrix protein-1 [DMP-1], and
matrix extracellular glycophosphoprotein [MEPE])
comprise a structurally and phylogenetically
homogeneous group of matricellular factors ( 2 ).
Their genes are grouped as a “ bone gene cluster ”
on human chromosome 4 (mouse chromosome 5)
( 3, 4 ), and they derive from a common ances-
tor shared with other enamel, milk, and saliva
calcium-binding proteins, likely secreted protein
acidic and rich in cysteine like-1 (SPARCL-1)/
Hevin, which is a relative of SPARC/osteonectin
( 5 ). Although originally thought to be restricted
to mineralized tissues, the SIBLINGs are now
known to be expressed in other tissues and
organs, such as salivary glands ( 6 ) and kidney ( 7 ).
The multiple functions of OPN (for review see
[ 8 ]), which is one of the earliest known and the
best studied members of the family, range from
infl ammation to lactation and cancer, suggesting
that it is best described as a cytokine ( 9 ). The
SIBLINGs interact with cells, especially via inte-
grins, and with bone mineral, and are thus in a
key position to regulate bone development, re-
modeling, and repair ( 1 ).
Although expression of DMP-1 and MEPE
is restricted mainly to osteocytes, BSP (for re-
view see [ 10 ]) and OPN have long been known
to be highly expressed by osteoblasts, hyper-
trophic chondrocytes, and osteoclasts, where
Jane E. Aubin:
Abbreviations used: BFR, bone
formation rate; BMD, bone
mineral density; BSP, bone
sialoprotein; DMP, dentin ma-
trix protein; IBSP, integrin-
binding sialoprotein; MEPE,
matrix extracellular glycophos-
phoprotein; MLT, mineraliza-
tion lag time; OPN,
osteopontin; SIBLING, small,
integrin-binding ligand N-
linked glycoprotein; SPARC,
secreted protein acidic and rich
in cysteine; SPP, secreted
Bone sialoprotein plays a functional role
in bone formation and osteoclastogenesis
Luc Malaval , 1 Nd é y é Mari è me Wade-Gu é ye , 1 Maya Boudiff a , 1 Jia Fei , 1
Ralph Zirngibl , 6 Frieda Chen , 6 Norbert Laroche , 1 Jean-Paul Roux , 2
Brigitte Burt-Pichat , 2 Fran ç ois Duboeuf , 2 Georges Boivin , 2 Pierre Jurdic , 3
Marie-H é l è ne Lafage-Proust , 1 Jo ë lle Am é d é e , 4 Laurence Vico , 1
Janet Rossant , 5,6 and Jane E. Aubin 6
1 Institut National de la Sant é et de la Recherche M é dicale U890, IFR 143, Universit é Jean-Monnet,
Saint-Etienne, F42023, France
2 Institut National de la Sant é et de la Recherche M é dicale U831, IFR 62, Universit é de Lyon, Lyon, F69008, France
3 Institut de G é nomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, Institut F é d é ratif Biosciences Gerland Lyon Sud, Universit é Lyon 1,
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifi que, INRA, Ecole Normale Sup é rieure, F69364 Lyon, France
4 Institut National de la Sant é et de la Recherche M é dicale U577, Universit é Victor Segalen, Bordeaux, F33076, France
5 Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario MG5 1X8, Canada
6 Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada
Bone sialoprotein (BSP) and osteopontin (OPN) are both highly expressed in bone, but their
functional specifi cities are unknown. OPN knockout ( ? / ? ) mice do not lose bone in a model
of hindlimb disuse (tail suspension), showing the importance of OPN in bone remodeling.
We report that BSP ? / ? mice are viable and breed normally, but their weight and size are
lower than wild-type (WT) mice. Bone is undermineralized in fetuses and young adults, but
not in older ( ≥ 12 mo) BSP ? / ? mice. At 4 mo, BSP ? / ? mice display thinner cortical bones
than WT, but greater trabecular bone volume with very low bone formation rate, which
indicates reduced resorption, as confi rmed by lower osteoclast surfaces. Although the
frequency of total colonies and committed osteoblast colonies is the same, fewer mineral-
ized colonies expressing decreased levels of osteoblast markers form in BSP ? / ? versus WT
bone marrow stromal cultures. BSP ? / ? hematopoietic progenitors form fewer osteoclasts,
but their resorptive activity on dentin is normal. Tail-suspended BSP ? / ? mice lose bone in
hindlimbs, as expected. In conclusion, BSP defi ciency impairs bone growth and mineraliza-
tion, concomitant with dramatically reduced bone formation. It does not, however, prevent
the bone loss resulting from loss of mechanical stimulation, a phenotype that is clearly
different from OPN ? / ? mice.
BSP KO AFFECTS BONE FORMATION AND OSTEOCLASTOGENESIS | Malaval et al.
BSP ? / ? mice are smaller and have shorter
BSP ? / ? mice are viable and breed normally with a Mende-
lian ratio of genotypes in progeny. However, the weight and
size of both male and female BSP ? / ? mice are lower than their
WT counterparts at 4 mo and up to 16 mo ( Fig. 1, A – C ).
This is independent of nutritional defi cit, as indicated by the
percentage of fat in body mass, which does not diff er be-
tween the two genotypes ( Fig. 1 D ). Bone size parameters
parallel the overall size measurements, with shorter femora
( Fig. 1, E and F ) and thinner cortices ( Fig. 1, G and H ) in 4-mo-
old mutants. Although with age cortical thickness of mutant
bones reaches a size equivalent to that of WT ( Fig. 1 H ), fe-
mur length does not ( Fig. 1 F ). No diff erence in growth plate
thickness in adult (4 – 6 mo old) BSP ? / ? versus WT mice was
detectable (unpublished data).
Bone mineral density (BMD) of femurs of mutant mice is
20% lower than in WT mice at 4 mo of age, but equivalent in
older mice (12 mo old; not depicted). Quantitative μ CT analy-
sis of midshaft femoral cortical bone showed that bone matrix
mineralization (in milligrams of hydroxyapatite/centimeter 3 ) is
? 9% lower in BSP ? / ? mice compared with WT animals at
birth (embryonic day [E]18 fetuses), and ? 5% lower at 4 mo of
age, but not signifi cantly diff erent at 12 mo of age ( Table I ).
Quantitative microradiography (assessing the frequency distri-
bution of mineral density on cortical and trabecular area of
bone slices [ 17 ]) of a small sample of BSP ? / ? and WT male and
female mice confi rmed these fi ndings (unpublished data).
BSP ? / ? mice display high trabecular bone mass
with low turnover
The trabecular bone volume (BV/TV) in long bones ( Fig. 2,
A and B ) of BSP ? / ? male and female mice is ? 25 – 40% higher
their functional roles are only beginning to be understood
( 1 ). In vitro data suggest that BSP ( 11 ), but not the ubiqui-
tous OPN ( 11, 12 ), may initiate hydroxyapatite crystal forma-
tion in the bone matrix. Similar to OPN ( 13 ), BSP expression
is increased in osteoblasts subjected to mechanical stimula-
tion ( 14 ). Mice with the OPN gene ablated do not lose bone
after mechanical unloading (tail suspension [ 15 ]) or upon es-
trogen withdrawal (ovariectomy [ 16 ]), showing the impor-
tance of OPN in the regulation of bone remodeling by
osteoblasts and osteoclasts. These observations, together with
their coexpression in osteogenic cells actively involved in bone
deposition/remodeling, indicates the importance of estab-
lishing the functional specifi cities and degree of redundancy
of OPN and BSP in the skeleton. To this end, we prepared
and characterized knockout mice lacking expression of BSP
(BSP ? / ? ), whose phenotype and response to tail suspension
are distinct from OPN ? / ? mice and other members of the
Figure 1. Morphology and skeletal morphometry of BSP ? / ? mice.
Picture (A), measurements of body length (B), body weight (C), and per-
centage of fat mass (D) of +/+ and ? / ? mice. μ CT scout images of whole
femurs (E), and femur length (F) at 4 and 12 mo of age for WT ( +/+ ) and
mutant ( ? / ? ) female mice; similar results were obtained with males (not
depicted). Two-dimensional images of midshaft sections in specimens
from both genotypes (G) and cortical thickness (H) at 4 and 12 mo of age
for +/+ and ? / ? male and female mice. Values are the mean ± the SEM of
6 – 10 samples. **, P < 0.01; ****, P < 0.0001 versus matched WT; #, P <
0.05 versus matched females.
Table I. Tissue mineralization of cortical bone, measured by
? CT in femurs of WT and BSP ? / ? mice
AgeSex Genotype mg HAP/cm 3 % Difference with
E18 Fetus +/+
? / ?
? / ?
? / ?
? / ?
? / ?
269 ± 12.6
245 ± 10.4 b
1,331 ± 23.0 c
1,266 ± 30.0 d , e
1,378 ± 10.5
1,313 ± 17.8 d
1,468 ± 40.8 f
1,465 ± 16.4 f
1,344 ± 23.3
1,310 ± 9.2
4 mo Male
12 mo Male
a Signifi cant differences with WT are shown in bold.
b P < 0.01 versus matched WT.
c P < 0.01 versus matched sex.
d P < 0.001 versus matched WT.
e P < 0.001 versus matched sex.
f P < 0.05 versus matched sex.
JEM VOL. 205, May 12, 2008
relate with reduced surfaces of cuboidal (plump) osteoblasts
(Ob.S/BS; Fig. 2 D ). In contrast, osteoid surface (OS/BS)
and thickness (O.Th) are increased in BSP ? / ? mice, as well as
mineralization lag time (MLT; Fig. 4 D ), refl ecting delayed
primary mineralization. Osteoclast surfaces (Oc.S/BS) are re-
duced in mutant compared with WT femur of both sexes
( Fig. 2 C ). A similar phenotype is observed in tibia, where
osteoclast numbers (N.Oc/B.Ar) were also found to be sig-
nifi cantly reduced in BSP ? / ? mice ( Fig. 2 C ).
Both bone nodule mineralization and osteoclast
differentiation are impaired in cultures of BSP ? / ? cells
Total mesenchymal progenitor cell (total CFU-F) and osteo-
progenitor frequency were assessed in WT and mutant male
and female bone marrow stromal cell cultures ( Fig. 3 A ). In
than in WT. This higher bone volume is associated with
higher trabecular number (TbN) and lower trabecular separa-
tion (TbSp) in mutant versus WT bones, although trabecular
thickness tends to be smaller in mutant mice ( Table II ). Dou-
ble fl uorochrome labeling revealed a very low bone forma-
tion activity in 4-mo-old male and female BSP ? / ? compared
with WT mice ( Fig. 2 C and Table II ), both in terms of la-
beled surfaces (MS/BS) and apposition rate (MAR), resulting
in a dramatically reduced bone formation rate (BFR). Low
dynamic parameters of bone formation in BSP ? / ? mice cor-
Figure 2. BSP ? / ? mice have higher trabecular bone density and
lower bone turnover. (A) Trabecular bone volume in tibias of 4-mo-old
mutant ( ? / ? ) and WT ( +/+ ) mice of either sex as measured by three-dimen-
sional μ CT. (B) Three-dimensional reconstruction and trichrome-stained
sections of +/+ and ? / ? female femur. Bar, 0.5 mm. (C) Histomorphometric
parameters of bone formation and resorption in the femur of male and
female mice, and the tibia of female +/+ and ? / ? 4-mo-old mice. (D) Histo-
morphometric assessment of osteoblast surface and osteoid mineraliza-
tion in the tibia of 4-mo-old +/+ and ? / ? female mice. All values are the
mean ± the SEM of 5 to 9 mice. *, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001
versus matched +/+ .
Figure 3. Impaired mineralized bone nodule formation and osteo-
clast differentiation, but not activity, in cultures of BSP ? / ? cells.
Micrographs (A) and quantifi cation of total colony forming units-fi bro-
blasts (CFU-F; B), unmineralized ALP + colonies (CFU-ALP; C) and mineral-
ized ALP + colonies (CFU-O; D) in bone marrow stromal cell cultures of
female mutant ( ? / ? ) and WT ( +/+ ) mice. Values are the mean ± the SEM of
8 – 15 wells. (E) Micrographs of +/+ and ? / ? female spleen cells grown with
RANKL+M-CSF and stained for TRAP activity (TRAP + ); (F) number of TRAP +
cells; (G) number of osteoclasts (TRAP + cells with ≥ 3 nuclei) formed in
spleen cell and bone marrow cultures. Values are the mean ± the SEM of
12 wells. (H) Number of resorption pits on dentine slices plated with +/+
and ? / ? differentiated osteoclasts; values are the mean ± the SEM of six
slices. ***, P < 0.001; ****, P < 0.0001 versus matched WT.
BSP KO AFFECTS BONE FORMATION AND OSTEOCLASTOGENESIS | Malaval et al.
lower number of TRAP-positive cells and of multinucleated
osteoclasts form in spleen cells ( Fig. 3, E and F ) and bone
marrow cultures ( Fig. 3 F ) from BSP ? / ? versus WT mice.
Although osteoclasts formed in BSP ? / ? cultures appear smaller
than those in WT cultures ( Fig. 3 E ), when diff erentiated,
osteoclasts were replated onto dentine slices. No signifi cant
diff erence in either the number ( Fig. 3 G ) or the mean area
( Fig. 3 H ) of resorption pits was observed between the
BSP ? / ? mice express aberrant levels of osteoblast markers
Expression of major osteoblast markers was assessed by quantita-
tive RT-PCR of RNA from long bones of 4-mo-old mutant
and WT mice; OPN expression is decreased in BSP ? / ? bones,
whereas all other markers tested do not vary signifi cantly ( Fig.
4 A ). Real-time PCR analysis of osteoblast marker expression
cultures from both sexes (males not depicted), the total number
of CFU-F ( Fig. 3 B ) and the subset of putative osteoprogeni-
tors (CFU-ALP = colonies with ALP + cells, but unmineral-
ized matrix; Fig. 3 C ) is the same in BSP ? / ? and WT stromal
cells, but the number of mature osteoblast colonies (CFU-O =
colonies double-positive for ALP activity and mineral deposi-
tion) is dramatically reduced ( Fig. 3, A and D ). A signifi cantly
Table II. Static and dynamic trabecular bone parameters in
long bones of control and unloaded WT (WT) and BSP ? / ? mice
BSP ? / ?
Static parameters a
( μ m)
( μ m)
( μ m)
( μ m)
ControlUnloaded ControlUnloaded Sex
2.3 ± 0.1
3.6 ± 0.2
3.0 ± 0.1 b , c
2.3 ± 0.2 e
1.7 ± 0.1 d
6.1 ± 0.3 f
2.0 ± 0.1 e Male
5.4 ± 0.3 e
51 ± 1.8 46 ± 0.8 e 53 ± 1.648 ± 1.1 e
30 ± 2.639 ± 3.2 e 16 ± 0.8 g 18 ± 1.1 e
2.1 ± 0.1
2.1 ± 0.1
2.4 ± 0.04 e
2.4 ± 0.2
2.2 ± 0.1
3.7 ± 0.3 g
2.6 ± 0.1 h Female
3.2 ± 0.3 i
67 ± 1.453 ± 2.0 i 47 ± 1.6 f 46 ± 2.1
50 ± 3.0 44 ± 3.328 ± 2.5 g 34 ± 4.2
Dynamic parameters j
(/ μ m 2 )
( μ m/day)
379 ± 50 383 ± 42346 ± 39354 ± 65Male
13.04 ± 2.69 6.14 ± 1.41 e 4.93 ± 1.68 k 1.18 ± 0.27 h
2.38 ± 0.36 1.31 ± 0.10 h 1.49 ± 0.19 k 1.55 ± 0.88
(/ μ m 2 )
( μ m/day)
288 ± 50384 ± 63277 ± 38 386 ± 37Female
21.51 ± 3.19 6.38 ± 1.53 i 4.93 ± 1.34 g 5.28 ± 1.12
2.98 ± 0.18 1.18 ± 0.22 i 1.11 ± 0.14 g 1.17 ± 0.13
See Materials and methods for details.
a μ CT analysis on excised tibias.
b P < 0.0001 versus loaded control.
c Results are the mean ± the SEM.
d P < 0.01 versus matched WT.
e P < 0.05 versus loaded control.
f P < 0.0001 versus matched WT.
g P < 0.001 versus matched WT.
h P < 0.01 versus loaded control.
i P < 0.001 versus loaded control.
j Histomorphometry on excised femurs.
k P < 0.05 versus matched WT.
Figure 4. In vivo and in vitro effects of BSP deletion on osteoblast
marker expression. (A) Real-time PCR analysis of osteocalcin (OCN),
OPN, tissue nonspecifi c alkaline phosphatase (ALP), type I collagen (COLL I),
osterix (OSX), osteoprotegerin (OPG), and receptor-activator of NF- ? B
(RANKL) mRNA expression in femurs of 4-mo-old male BSP ? / ? mice. Val-
ues are the mean ± the SEM of 3 – 4 mice (except for OSX) normalized to
housekeeping gene L32 and expressed as the percentage of WT levels.
(B) Time course of expression of COLL I, OCN, OSX, and OPN mRNA as
assessed by real-time PCR in bone marrow cultures of WT (empty symbols)
and mutant (black symbols) mice, grown in osteogenic conditions. Values
were normalized to time-matched levels of the housekeeping gene L32.
*, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001; ****, P < 0.0001 versus matched WT.
JEM VOL. 205, May 12, 2008
to osteomalacia ( 23 ), at least in part through up-regulation
of FGF23 ( 24 ) and MEPE ( 25 ), whereas absence of the lat-
ter results in high bone mass ( 22 ). Similarly, studies in vitro
under carefully controlled conditions suggest that OPN is a
strong inhibitor of hydroxyapatite crystal growth, whereas
BSP ( 11 ) and DMP-1 ( 26 ) are promoters of mineralization.
The recent characterization of OPN/ALP double-knockout
mice, in which the osteomalacia caused by the lack of ALP
activity is partly rescued by the absence of OPN, supports a
role for OPN as a mineralization inhibitor ( 27 ). Interestingly,
OPN ? / ? mice were also reported to have hypermineralized
bone matrix ( 27, 28 ), in striking contrast to the hypominer-
alization that we document in BSP knockout mice. BSP was
shown to be associated with bone acidic glycoprotein-75 and
ALP in specifi c structures ( “ biomineralization foci ” ) that are
sites of mineral nucleation in the matrix of primary mem-
brane bone ( 29, 30 ). The hypomineralization of bone nod-
ules formed in cultures of cells from BSP ? / ? mice, the slight
but signifi cant mineral defi cit in BSP ? / ? mice at birth ( ? 9%),
and the increased MLT in adult bone are compatible with
a role of BSP in early bone matrix mineralization, whereas
the progressive recovery with age of matrix mineral content
( Table I ) would suggest that this protein has no major and/
or a redundant function in mature bone. However, the re-
duced expression of OPN in whole BSP ? / ? bones and the
delayed peak of OPN in osteogenic mutant marrow cultures
suggest a more complex situation in which down-regulation
of OPN may be a compensatory response to loss of BSP, and
more work is needed to establish the part played by each
SIBLING family member in the development and regulation
of matrix mineralization.
Although the affi nity of SIBLINGs for hydroxyapatite
and the ability to regulate crystal growth/nucleation were
among the earliest characteristics identifi ed for members of
in diff erentiating cultures showed higher levels of mRNAs
for all markers in early cultures (day 13; day 17 for OPN), but
reduced (osteocalcin) or delayed peak expression (all other
markers) in later cultures ( Fig. 4 B ).
BSP ? / ? mice lose bone under conditions of unloading
Both male and female WT and BSP ? / ? mice lose trabecular
bone in the tibiae after 2 wk of tail suspension ( Fig. 5 and
Table II ). Changes in BV/TV parallel other structural pa-
rameters of trabecular bone ( Table II ). As previously de-
scribed in unloaded mice ( 18 ), trabecular bone loss in WT
mice correlates with a dramatic decrease in BFR ( Fig. 5 )
caused by a signifi cant reduction of both MS/BS and MAR
( Table II ). BFR decrease upon unloading is detected in mu-
tant males ( Fig. 5 ). Osteoclast surface is also increased by
hindlimb unloading in both genotypes, at least in females
( Fig. 5 ), whereas osteoclast numbers show a nonsignifi cant
trend to increase ( Table II ).
The close phylogenic relationship between SIBLING family
members ( 5 ), as well as their marked structural similarities
( 1, 19 ), raise questions about their functional specifi cities,
especially in the context of bone. Indeed, mouse models in
which particular SIBLINGs are knocked out ( 20 – 24 ) have
displayed a variety of distinct phenotypes. For instance, both
DMP1 and MEPE strongly regulate bone mineralization,
but in opposite ways, with absence of the former leading
Figure 6. Strategy for deletion of the bsp gene. (A) A schematic
representation of the WT and mutant alleles and the targeting vector. E,
EcoRI; H, HindIII; B, BamHI; X, XbaI; N, NotI; K, Kpn. (B) Southern blot
analysis of tail DNA from WT ( +/+ ), heterozygote ( +/ ? ) and knockout ( ? / ? )
mouse littermates. The presence of the 3.2-kb wild-type fragment and
the 4.8-kb recombinant fragments are seen in genomic DNA digested
with HindIII. (C) Northern blot analysis of BSP mRNA expression in
calvaria and femur bones of young and adult +/+ and ? / ? mice. L32,
Figure 5. BSP ? / ? mice lose bone upon unloading. Three-dimensional
μ CT assessment of trabecular bone volume in tibia, and histomorphomet-
ric assessment of BFR and osteoclast surfaces (Oc.S/BS) in femur of mu-
tant ( ? / ? ) and WT ( +/+ ) control (CT) or 15-d tail-suspended (Unloaded, Uld)
male and female mice. Values are the mean ± the SEM of 7 – 9 samples.
*, P < 0.05; **, P < 0.01; ***, P < 0.001 versus matched CT.
BSP KO AFFECTS BONE FORMATION AND OSTEOCLASTOGENESIS | Malaval et al.
RT-PCR results documenting an altered expression of late
osteoblast markers, perhaps matrix-driven (low type I colla-
gen), in BSP ? / ? marrow cultures, which is likely to impair
the deposition of mineralized matrix. Our results are in agree-
ment with recent data from osteoblasts treated with siRNA
of intact and mutant BSP ( 46 ), which also indicate that the
RGD-containing portion of the sequence is necessary for
phenotypic regulation by BSP. These in vitro data are consis-
tent with the low rate of bone formation observed in vivo,
and thus the observation that BSP ? / ? mice actually display a
higher trabecular bone mass strongly suggests that bone re-
sorption is concomitantly reduced.
It is notable that the loss of BSP does not aff ect osteo-
clast capacity to resorb normal (BSP-containing) dentine,
suggesting that endogenous BSP production by osteoclasts
is not required for resorption. On the other hand, absence
of BSP does impair osteoclast diff erentiation in vitro, which
is consistent with previous in vitro studies implicating BSP
in regulation of osteoclast diff erentiation and activity ( 47 ),
together with RANKL ( 48 ). That the same is true in vivo
is supported by our observation that, whereas OPG and
RANKL expression are normal, there is a reproducible re-
duction of the percentage of area covered by osteoclasts in
BSP ? / ? mice, and a less consistent reduction in osteoclast
numbers. Osteoclasts and their precursors adhere to BSP
through the ? v ? 3 integrin receptor, and this interaction is
thought to be an important regulator of their diff erentiation
and activity ( 47, 49 ). It is thus possible that the diff erentia-
tion of osteoclasts and, as is the case for OPN ? / ? mice ( 50 ),
their resorptive activity in vivo (on matrix lacking BSP), is
signifi cantly impaired via an integrin outside-in pathway,
but further studies will be necessary to clarify this point.
Overall, the phenotype of BSP ? / ? mice strikingly con-
trasts that seen in OPN ? / ? mice. The latter have a normal
BFR, but a higher trabecular bone mass with increased num-
bers of poorly resorbing osteoclasts ( 50 ). Also, as previously
mentioned, OPN ? / ? mice do not lose bone with hindlimb
unloading, which is an established model of disuse osteopo-
rosis ( 15 ). In contrast, and despite their low turnover, mice
lacking BSP respond to hindlimb unloading by a signifi cant
trabecular bone loss. As previously shown ( 18 ), hindlimb
unloading induces a transient increase of bone resorption
followed by a more sustained inhibition of bone formation.
After 15 d of unloading, WT mice show strongly reduced
BFR with only a trend to increased osteoclast numbers and
(in females) surfaces in our experiments, indicative of a late-
stage bone response. In BSP ? / ? mice, BFR reduction is ob-
served only in males, whereas the increased osteoclast surface
is seen only in females, likely caused by distinct kinetics be-
tween the two sexes. Collectively, our data suggest that os-
teoblastic formation and osteoclastic resorption are modulated
by unloading in BSP ? / ? mice, the latter likely accounting
for most of the bone loss, given the low BFR. Although, as
mentioned, our in vitro results on dentin cannot discount re-
duced in vivo osteoclast activity in BSP ? / ? mice, older mu-
tant animals do lose trabecular bone (not depicted), which is
this family, it is now clear that these proteins are involved in
numerous other physiological processes. For example, recent
investigations have implicated SIBLINGs in the regulation
of MMP activity ( 31 ). This, together with their well-known
capacity to mediate cell attachment ( 32 – 36 ), suggests that
SIBLINGs are important factors in normal and pathogenic
tissue remodeling, e.g., in cancer ( 37 – 40 ), and possibly in
bone. The latter hypothesis is supported by the phenotype of
BSP ? / ? mice.
The shorter size of BSP ? / ? mice correlates with the re-
duced size of long bones. The complex process of endochon-
dral ossifi cation involves interplay between osteoblasts and
chondrocytes, two BSP-expressing cell types (the latter at the
hypertrophic stage), as well as vascularization, in which BSP
may play a regulatory role ( 41 ). Detailed studies are being
carried out to describe precisely at the tissue level the time
course of skeletogenesis and long bone growth in BSP ? / ?
mice, and clarify the cell types and mechanisms aff ected by
The reduced cortical thickness and BFR of BSP ? / ? mice
are consistent with both the expression of BSP in actively
bone forming/remodeling cells and its known and putative
functions in cell attachment and tissue processing. Together
with several previous in vitro studies ( 42 – 46 ), these results
indicate that BSP is a potent regulator of osteoblast diff eren-
tiation and/or activity. It is also notable that the absence of
BSP does not appear to alter the total mesenchymal progeni-
tor cell pool, osteoprogenitor recruitment, or early diff eren-
tiation, as the total number of CFU-F and CFU-ALP is not
detectably changed. However, the strikingly lower number
of mineralized colonies indicates that BSP is required for late
stages of (at least) primary osteogenesis. This is confi rmed by
Table III. PCR primers in 5 ? -3 ? direction
PrimerBank ID Product
Col1 ? 1
L32 b NA 100
NA, not available.
a F, forward; R, reverse.
b Designed with Primer Express software, version 2.0 (PerkinElmer).
JEM VOL. 205, May 12, 2008
Hindlimb unloading. 16-wk-old male and female BSP ? / ? and WT mice
were either subjected to hindlimb unloading through tail suspension or
kept unsuspended ( n = 10 per treatment group) for 15 d. Each suspended
and control animal was single-housed in a polycarbonate cage (26 × 15 × 14
cm); suspended cages were raised by a frame supporting the suspension
hanging system. Tail suspension experiments were performed with standard
housing conditions as above. After sacrifi ce, the long bones were dissected
out and processed for histomorphometry and/or μ CT, as described in
Histology and histomorphometry. Fetuses at term (E18) and bones from
adult specimens were processed undecalcifi ed for histology. 6 and 2 d before
death, adult animals were labeled with 25 mg/kg tetracycline by intraperito-
neal injection. Mice were killed by cervical dislocation, and long bones were
dissected out and fi xed in 3.7% paraformaldehyde in PBS. Fetuses were fi xed
and dehydrated in the same way. Undecalcifi ed bone samples were embedded
in methylmethacrylate, and longitudinal coronal slices were cut with a Jung
model K microtome (Reichert-Jung) and used for modifi ed Goldner staining,
tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) staining (without counterstaining)
of osteoclasts, or left unstained. Trabecular bone volume (BV/TV), osteoblast
surface (Ob.S/BS), osteoid surface (OS/BS), and thickness (O.Th) were mea-
sured on Goldner-stained sections. Dynamic bone remodeling parameters
were measured by histomorphometry after double-tetracyclin labeling (on
unstained sections for labeled surfaces [MS/BS], mineral apposition rate
[MAR], and BFR [BFR/BS]). These parameters were combined to assess os-
teoid mineralization through MLT (MLT = [O.Th × OS]/[MS × MAR])
and Osteoid Maturation Time (OMT = O.Th/MAR). Osteoclast surfaces
(Oc.S/BS) and numbers (N.Oc/B.Ar) were measured on TRAP-stained sec-
tions. Fetus sections were stained with von Kossa for mineral or toluidine blue
for cartilage. Quantitative microradiography was done on 100- μ m-thick sec-
tions of tibiae from 10-mo-old mice, and bone matrix mineralization (grams/
centimeter 3 ) was measured as previously described ( 17 ).
High-resolution μ CT. Fetuses at term (E18), fi xed and ethanol-dehy-
drated bones dissected from adult specimens, and whole mice were scanned
with a high-resolution μ CT (Viva CT40; Scanco Medical). Fetuses and iso-
lated bones were kept in ethanol during image acquisition. Whole mice
were killed by cervical dislocation before scanning. Data were acquired at 55
KeV for adults and 45 KeV for fetuses, with 10 μ m cubic resolution. Three-
dimensional reconstructions were generated with the following parameters:
Sigma, 1.2; Support, 2; Threshold, 160 (spongiosa) or 280 (cortex) for adult
samples and Threshold, 140 for fetuses. Cortical thickness and tissue mineral
density were calculated by integration of the value on each transverse section
of a set of 100 chosen in the midshaft area. Tissue mineral density was de-
rived from the linear attenuation coeffi cient of thresholded bone through
precalibration of the apparatus for the acquisition voltage chosen. The bone
volume fraction of trabecular metaphysis (VOX BV/TV) was measured on
a set of 80 sections under the growth plate, within the secondary spongiosa.
Trabecular thickness (Tb.Th), trabecular number (Tb.N), trabecular separa-
tion (Tb.Sp), and structure model index (SMI) were calculated without as-
suming a constant model, as previously described ( 53 ). SMI estimates the
plate-rod characteristics of a structure; its value is 0 for an ideal plate, and 3
for an ideal rod, with intermediate values refl ecting the volume ratio be-
tween rods and plates.
In vitro osteoblast and osteoclast diff erentiation and activity assays.
Mouse bone marrow stromal cell cultures were used to quantify the total
number of progenitors: total colony forming units-fi broblasts (CFU-F;
methylene blue-positive colonies), colony forming units-tissue nonspecifi c
alkaline phosphatase (CFU-ALP, i.e., putative osteoprogenitors expressing
ALP), and defi nitive osteoblastic cells with mature osteoblasts and mineral-
ized matrix (CFU-O; ALP and von Kossa – positive, mineralized colonies)
as previously described ( 54, 55 ). In brief, young (2 – 4 mo of age) male and
female BSP ? / ? and WT mice were killed by cervical dislocation, and the
marrow was fl ushed from dissected femurs in ? -minimum essential medium
suggestive of effi cient metaphyseal resorption in mature ( > 5-
mo-old) animals. Collectively, these results suggests that BSP
is not an absolute limiting factor for increased resorption,
perhaps caused by some compensatory mechanisms, such
as overexpression of related proteins (possibly another SIB-
LING) in challenging conditions. Whatever the compensa-
tory mechanism, it contrasts with the cell autonomous defect
in osteoclast activity of OPN ? / ? mice ( 50 ), and stresses that
the cellular mechanisms underlying the two phenotypes are
quite diff erent.
In conclusion, BSP ? / ? mice display a reduced body and
long bone growth, but have a high trabecular bone mass ac-
companied by low bone turnover that is, nonetheless, re-
sponsive to mechanical challenges. Our data thus highlight
the specifi city of BSP roles in the bone context and further
confi rm the nonredundancy of function of SIBLING family
members in skeletal biology.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Construction of the bsp -null targeting vector and chimeric mouse
production. Two bsp mouse cDNA clones were used to screen a 129Sv/J
mouse genomic ? DASH2 phage library. 2 overlapping genomic clones,
spanning ? 19 kb of sequence and the entire bsp locus, were isolated and se-
quenced. A short 5 ? arm of bsp homology on a 600-bp Sac1 fragment down-
stream of exon I was cloned upstream of the PGKneo cassette in the pPNT
positive-negative selection vector. A long 3 ? arm of bsp homology on a 6-kb
Kpn fragment was then cloned downstream of the PGKneo cassette, giving
the fi nal targeting vector. Homologous recombination resulted in the dele-
tion of exons II – III and insertion of the PGKneo cassette in their place
( Fig. 6 A ). Mouse embryonic stem cells (R1; passage 8) were provided by
A. Nagy (Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada) ( 51 ). Propagation, electroporation, and selection
of recombinant R1 clones were performed essentially as previously described
( 52 ). In brief, RI embryonic stem cells were electroporated with the NotI
linearized targeting vector and were selected by using 200 μ g of active Ge-
neticin (G418; Invitrogen)/ml and 2 μ M ganciclovir (Syntex, Inc.). DNA
from selected clones was digested with HindIII and analyzed by Southern
blot hybridization using a HindIII/Xba probe as indicated ( Fig. 6 B ). Posi-
tive clones were used to make chimeric mice, among which a male transmit-
ted the mutation through the germ line after crossing with albino CD1
outbred females. Off spring were maintained on a 129/CD-1 background
and genotyped by Southern blotting. Northern blotting of total RNA ex-
tracted from calvariae and long bones of WT and BSP ? / ? mice, with the ribo-
somal protein L32 as a control, confi rmed the total lack of BSP expression in
knockout mice ( Fig. 6 C ).
Care of animals and sampling procedures. The procedures for the care
and killing of the animals were in accordance with the University of To-
ronto Animal Care Committee and the European Community standards on
the care and use of laboratory animals (Minist è re de l ’ Agriculture, France;
Authorization 04827). The animal experiments were approved by the local
Animal Care Committees. During acclimatization and experimentation, the
animals were kept in standard conditions of temperature (23 ± 2 ° C) and
light-controlled environment (12 h light/12 h dark cycle), and with free ac-
cess to water and pelleted food (UAR rodent diet No.R03 – 25; UAR).
Measurement of body and skeletal parameters. After killing, mouse
body length was measured from the nose to the tip of the tail. Biphotonic
densitometry was used to measure BMD (Hologic QDR 1500) and fat
mass (Piximus; Lunar Corp.). Femur length was measured on isolated bones
with a 1/50 caliper between the olecranon and the articular condyle of
BSP KO AFFECTS BONE FORMATION AND OSTEOCLASTOGENESIS | Malaval et al.
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Mice lacking osteopontin show normal development and bone struc-
ture but display altered osteoclast formation in vitro. J. Bone Miner. Res.
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Hong , J.T. Wright , M. MacDougall , J. Sauk , and A.B. Kulkarni . 2003 .
( ? MEM) with antibiotics (100 μ g/ml penicillin G [Sigma-Aldrich], 50 μ g/ml
gentamycin [Sigma-Aldrich], and 300 ng/ml fungizone [Flow Laboratories])
containing 15% heat-inactivated FCS. Recovered cells were plated at 0.5 – 1 ×
10 6 nucleated cells/35-mm dish and cultured in the same medium, which
was supplemented additionally with ascorbic acid (50 μ g/ml) and ? -glycero-
phosphate (10 mM). Cultures were maintained for 18 – 21 d; fi xing, staining,
and quantifi cation of colony numbers was carried out as previously de-
scribed ( 54, 55 ).
For osteoclast diff erentiation assays, BSP ? / ? and WT female mice were
killed by cervical dislocation. Spleens were removed and osteoclast precur-
sors were isolated by centrifugation using Lympholyte cell separation media
(CL 5030; Cedarlane Laboratories) for 20 min at 2,500 rpm. Cells were
plated in 24-well plates at 25 × 10 4 cells per well, in diff erentiation medium
containing 50 ng/ml RANKL and 20 ng/ml MCSF (Peprotech). Bone mar-
row was collected, plated (2 × 10 6 nucleated cells/cm 2 ), and grown as de-
scribed in the previous paragraph in ? MEM, 15%FCS supplemented with
10 ? 8 M 1, and 25-dihydroxy vitamin D (Sigma-Aldrich). At day 7 of the
culture, cells were fi xed with 2% paraformaldehyde, washed with PBS, and
incubated with a mixture of 2 mg/ml Naphtol AS-TR Phosphate (Sigma-
Aldrich) and 5 mg/ml Fast Violet B Salt (Sigma-Aldrich) for 1 h at 40 ° C.
TRAP-expressing (TRAP + ) cells were counted under a light microscope,
and cells with ≥ 3 nuclei were considered as multinucleated osteoclasts. For
resorption pit assay, equal numbers of mature osteoclasts from spleen cell
cultures were plated on dentine slices (provided by N. Takahashi, Matsu-
moto Dental University, Nagano, Japan) for 48 h, and resorption pits were
stained with toluidine blue after cell removal ( 56 ).
Real-time RT-PCR. Total RNA was isolated from midshaft femoral cor-
tical bone (4-mo-old males) or from cell cultures using TRI Reagent ac-
cording to the manufacturer ’ s instructions (Sigma-Aldrich). Samples were
reverse transcribed, and 50 ng of the cDNA (RNA equivalent) was amplifi ed
through RT-PCR using the SYBR Green PCR Master Mix (Applied Bio-
systems) on the MyIQ single-color real-time PCR detection system (Bio-
Rad Laboratories). The raw, background-subtracted fl uorescence data
provided in the MyIQ software were analyzed by the real-time PCR Miner
program ( 57 ). The resulting PCR effi ciency and fractional cycle number of
the threshold ( C T ) were used for transcript quantifi cation. mRNA expression
was normalized to L32 mRNA. PCR primer sequences were chosen from
PrimerBank ( 58 ), unless otherwise stated ( Table III ), and were verifi ed to
Statistical analysis. Phenotypic evaluation (morphometry, histomorphome-
try, μ CT, densitometry, and microradiography) data, as well as in vitro experi-
ments, were assessed with the Mann-Whitney U test or Student ’ s t test (stromal
cell colony counts). RT-PCR results were analyzed by Student ’ s t test. Tail sus-
pension experiments were analyzed by two-way ANOVA with post test.
The authors thank Dr. N. Takahashi for the generous gift of dentine slices, Dr. A.
Gupta for help with BSP gene sequencing and the Laboratoire de Transgen è se,
Service Commun de l ’ Universit é de Bordeaux II, especially P. Costet and U. Bhargava
(Toronto), for the care of animals.
This work was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
(FRN83704 to J.E. Aubin) and by the Institut National de la Sant é et de la Recherche
M é dicale (INSERM) and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifi que (CNRS),
through both basal funding to affi liated laboratories and a collective grant within
the Ing é nierie Tissulaire-Biom é canique-Biomat é riaux (IT2B) INSERM/CNRS
cooperative program (to L. Malaval, M.-H. Lafage-Proust, J. Amedee, and L. Vico).
The authors have no confl icting fi nancial interests.
Submitted: 25 June 2007
Accepted: 3 April 2008
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