Bio imaging of intracellular NO production in single bone cells after mechanical stimulation.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


We show the intracellular upregulation of NO production after mechanical stimulation, an essential chemical signal in bone remodeling. This is done in real time using the fluorescent chromophore DAR-4M AM. Differences in cellular response to mechanical stimulation of different regions of a single cell were observed.


Osteocytes are the most abundant bone cells that are believed to be the mechanosensors of bone, responding to mechanical stresses in interstitial fluid flow through the canaliculi. Under mechanical load, chemical signals such as NO play a key role in the activity of osteoblasts/osteoclasts that regulate bone remodeling. Despite the importance of NO in signaling, its real-time detection has proved challenging. This is largely because of the short NO half-life (typically approximately 0.1-5 s). Here, we show the upregulation of intracellular NO production in single osteocytes under localized mechanical stimulation.

Materials and methods

We used the chromophore DAR-4M AM for NO detection. This is loaded into surface-attached MLO-Y4 osteocyte-like and MC3T3-E1 osteoblast-like cells that are subjected to a localized mechanical stimulation using optical tweezers or a microneedle tip. DAR-4M AM is membrane-permeable and chelates NO, forming a stable, fluorescent compound, which is visible with a rhodamine filter.


Nonstimulated MLO-Y4 and MC3T3-E1 cells showed basal NO production levels, as indicated by a gradual increase in their fluorescence intensity. Localized mechanical stimulation of single MC3T3-E1 cells and MLO-Y4 cells by optical tweezers (150-550 pN, 0.5-3 Hz, 1 minute) showed a nearly 15-30% increase, whereas MLO-Y4 cells stimulated by a microneedle (10-20 nN, 1 minute) showed nearly 15-16% increase relative to their nonstimulated state. Furthermore, stimulation of a single cell process by a microneedle resulted in a 2-10% increase in the fluorescence intensity.


NO is essential for mechanically induced bone remodeling and is a meaningful parameter for measuring bone cell activation after mechanical loading. Here we show NO upregulation in individual bone cells after a localized mechanical stimulation. We also show that both the cell body and the cell processes might be involved in mechanosensing. This technique allows characterization of the mechanosensitivity of different parts of a single osteocyte. This opens up the possibility to uncover the complexities and function of single osteocytes in the dynamic process of bone remodeling.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vatsa, A; Mizuno, D; Smit, TH; Schmidt, CF; MacKintosh, FC; Klein-Nulend, J

Published Date

  • November 2006

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 11

Start / End Page

  • 1722 - 1728

PubMed ID

  • 17002570

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1523-4681

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0884-0431

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1359/jbmr.060720


  • eng