Features of mono- and multinucleated bone resorbing cells of the zebrafish Danio rerio and their contribution to skeletal development, remodeling, and growth

J Morphol. 2001 Dec;250(3):197-207. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1065.


To provide basic data about bone resorbing cells in the skeleton during the life cycle of Danio rerio, larvae, juveniles, and adults (divided into six age groups) were studied by histological procedures and by demonstration of the osteoclast marker enzyme tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP). Special attention was paid to the lower jaw, which is a standard element for fish bone studies. The presence of osteoclasts at endosteal surfaces of growing bones of all animals older than 20 days reveals that resorption is an important part of zebrafish skeletal development. The first bone-resorbing cells to form are mononucleated. They appear in 20-day-old animals concurrently in the craniofacial skeleton and vertebral column. Mononucleated osteoclasts are predominant in juveniles. Regional differences characterize the appearance of osteoclasts; at thin skeletal elements (neural arches, nasal) mononucleated osteoclasts are predominant even in adults. Multinucleated bone-resorbing cells were first observed in 40-day-old animals and are the predominant osteoclast type of adults. Both mono- and multinucleated osteoclasts contribute to allometric bone growth but multinucleated osteoclasts are also involved in lacunar bone resorption and repeated bone remodeling. Resorption of the dentary follows the pattern described above (mononucleated osteoclasts precede multinucleated cells) and includes the partial removal of Meckel's cartilage. Bone marrow spaces created by resorption are usually filled with adipose tissue. In conclusion, bone resorption is primarily subjected to the demands of growth, the appearance of mono- and multinucleated osteoclasts is site- and age-related, and bone remodeling occurs. The results are discussed in relation to findings in other teleosts and in mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Development / physiology*
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology*
  • Bone Resorption / physiopathology*
  • Osteoclasts / physiology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*