Osteogenic cells form mineralized particles, a few μ m in size, in a 3D collagen gel culture

PeerJ. 2019 Oct 23:7:e7889. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7889. eCollection 2019.


Osteogenic cells form mineralized matrices in vitro, as well as in vivo. The formation and shape of the mineralized matrices are highly regulated by the cells. In vitro formation of mineralized matrices by osteogenic cells can be a model for in vivo osteogenesis. In this study, using a three-dimensional (3D) collagen gel culture system, we developed a new in vitro model for the formation of mineralized particles, a few µm in size, by the osteogenic cells. Human osteosarcoma (HOS) cells formed spherical mineralized matrices (about 12 µm) at approximately 7 days when cultured with β-glycerophosphate (β-GP)-containing culture media on 2D tissue culture plates. Alternately, when they were cultured in a 3D collagen gel containing β-GP, they formed mineralized particles with about 1.7 µm in the gel at approximately 3 days. Calcium precipitation in the gel was evaluated by measuring the gel turbidity. This type of mineralization of HOS cells, which formed mineralized particles inside the gel, was also observed in a peptide-based hydrogel culture. The mineralized particles were completely diminished by inhibiting the activity of Pit-1, phosphate cotransporter, of the HOS cells. When mouse osteoblast-like MC3T3-E1 cells, which form large and flat mineralized matrices in 2D osteogenic conditions at approximately 3 weeks of culture, were cultured in a 3D collagen gel, they also formed mineralized particles in the gel, similar to those in HOS cells, at approximately 18 days. Thus, osteogenic cells cultured in the 3D collagen gel form mineralized particles over a shorter period, and the mineralization could be easily determined by gel turbidity. This 3D gel culture system of osteogenic cells acts as a useful model for cells forming particle-type mineralized matrices, and we assume that the mineralized particles in the 3D hydrogel are calcospherulites, which are derived from matrix vesicles secreted by osteogenic cells.

Keywords: 3D culture; Calcospherulites; Collagen gel; Mineralized matrices; Mineralized particles; Osteogenic cells.

Grants and funding

This study was supported by grants from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (16K01368 and 24106507) and the Institute of Environmental Science and Technologies, The University of Kitakyushu (grants for young scientists). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.