The cellular basis of bone remodeling: the quantum concept reexamined in light of recent advances in the cell biology of bone

Calcif Tissue Int. 1984;36 Suppl 1:S37-45. doi: 10.1007/BF02406132.


The cellular basis of the normal bone remodeling sequence in the human adult is discussed in relation to a cycle of five stages--quiescence, activation, resorption, reversal, formation, and return to quiescence. Normally, 80% or more of free bone surfaces are quiescent with respect to remodeling. The structure of the quiescent surface comprises 5 layers; listed in order out toward the bone marrow these are: the lamina limitans (the electron dense outer edge of the mineralized bone matrix), unmineralized connective tissue that may be confused with osteoid by light microscopy, flattened lining cells of osteoblast lineage separated by narrow gaps, more unmineralized connective tissue, and finally either the squamous sac cells of red marrow or the cytoplasm of fat cells of yellow marrow. Activation requires the recruitment of new osteoclasts derived from precursor cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system (and so ultimately from the hematopoietic stem cell), a method for precursor cells to penetrate the cellular and connective tissue barrier of the quiescent surface, and so gain access to the bone mineral, and mechanisms for their attraction and binding to the mineralized surface, possibly in response to chemotactic signals released from bone matrix or mineral. Each of these three steps is probably mediated in some way by lining cells. Resorption is carried out by osteoclasts, most of which are multinucleated. The mean life span of individual nuclei is about 12.5 days; the additional nuclei needed to sustain resorption may be derived from local as well as blood-bone precursors, but nothing is known of their fate.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Bone Development*
  • Bone Matrix / cytology
  • Bone Matrix / physiology
  • Bone Resorption*
  • Bone and Bones / physiology*
  • Cell Movement
  • Chemotaxis
  • Collagen / physiology
  • Haversian System / physiology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Osteoclasts / physiology*


  • Collagen