Chloride-hydrogen antiporters ClC-3 and ClC-5 drive osteoblast mineralization and regulate fine-structure bone patterning in vitro

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Osteoblasts form an epithelium-like layer with tight junctions separating bone matrix from extracellular fluid. During mineral deposition, calcium and phosphate precipitation in hydroxyapatite liberates 0.8 mole of H+ per mole Ca+2. Thus, acid export is needed for mineral formation. We examined ion transport supporting osteoblast vectorial mineral deposition. Previously we established that Na/H exchangers 1 and 6 are highly expressed at secretory osteoblast basolateral surfaces and neutralize massive acid loads. The Na/H exchanger regulatory factor-1 (NHERF1), a pdz-organizing protein, occurs at mineralizing osteoblast basolateral surfaces. We hypothesized that high-capacity proton transport from matrix into osteoblast cytosol must exist to support acid transcytosis for mineral deposition. Gene screening in mineralizing osteoblasts showed dramatic expression of chloride–proton antiporters ClC-3 and ClC-5. Antibody localization showed that ClC-3 and ClC-5 occur at the apical secretory surface facing the bone matrix and in membranes of buried osteocytes. Surprisingly, the Clcn3−/− mouse has only mildly disordered mineralization. However, Clcn3−/− osteoblasts have large compensatory increases in ClC-5 expression. Clcn3−/− osteoblasts mineralize in vitro in a striking and novel trabecular pattern; wild-type osteoblasts form bone nodules. In mesenchymal stem cells from Clcn3−/− mice, lentiviral ClC-5 shRNA created Clcn3−/−, ClC-5 knockdown cells, validated by western blot and PCR. Osteoblasts from these cells produced no mineral under conditions where wild-type or Clcn3−/− cells mineralize well. We conclude that regulated acid export, mediated by chloride–proton exchange, is essential to drive normal bone mineralization, and that CLC transporters also regulate fine patterning of bone.