Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to quantify the intercellular relationships between osteoblasts and osteocytes on the growing endosteal surfaces of the medullary canal of the tibia in four rabbits of different ages. The area of each osteoblast was measured on the SEM micrographs by means of an Image Analyzer. The number of osteocyte cytoplasmic processes was indirectly evaluated by counting the canalicular openings present on the same microscopic fields after the removal of the osteoblasts. The metabolic activity of the osteoblasts was indirectly evaluated from their shape, and the structure was analyzed by transmission electron microscope (TEM) in sections taken from the samples studied by SEM. In all four animals, the surface area of the osteoblasts (OA) was found to vary a great deal, whereas the density of canalicular openings was fairly uniform. Moreover, although the OA mean value increases significantly with the age of the animals, the density of canalicular openings does not; it would therefore appear that the older the animal and the more flattened the osteoblasts, the greater the number of canaliculi beneath them. Since osteoblast activity has previously been shown to be inversely proportional to the area of the protoplasm in contact with the bone surface, it appears that the less active osteoblasts should contact a greater number of osteocyte cytoplasmic processes. These findings suggest that osteocytes might play an important role in modulating osteoblast activity and in recruiting osteoblasts that differentiate into osteocytes, possibly by means of inhibitory signals transmitted via gap junctions.
A quantitative evaluation of osteoblast-osteocyte relationships on growing endosteal surface of rabbit tibiae / Marotti, G.; Ferretti, M.; Muglia, M.; Palumbo, C.; Palazzini, S.. - In: BONE. - ISSN 8756-3282. - 13:5(1992), pp. 363-368. [10.1016/8756-3282(92)90452-3]