Analysis of multiple protein detection methods in human osteoporotic bone extracellular matrix: From literature to practice

Bone, Volume 137 (2020)
Caterina Licini, Giorgia Montalbano, Gabriela Ciapetti, Giorgia Cerqueni, Chiara Vitale-Brovarone

The punctual analysis of bone Extracellular Matrix (ECM) proteins represents a pivotal point for medical research in bone diseases like osteoporosis. Studies in this field, historically done to appreciate bone biology, were mainly conducted on animal samples and, up to today, only a few studies on protein detection in human bone are present. The challenges in bone ECM protein extraction and quantitation protocols are related to both the separation of proteins from the mineral content (i.e. hydroxyapatite) and the difficulty of avoiding protein denaturation during the extraction processes. The aim of the present work was to define appropriate protocol(s) for bone ECM protein extraction that could be applied to investigate both normal and pathological conditions. We compared and optimised some of the most used protocols present in the literature, modifying the protein precipitation method, the buffer used for resuspension and/or the volume of reagent used. Bradford and BCA assays and Western Blotting were used to evaluate the variations in the total protein recovery and the amount of selected proteins (Type I Collagen, TGF-β, IGF-1, Decorin, Osteopontin, Bone Sialoprotein-2 and Osteocalcin). Collectively, we were capable to draw-up two single-extract protocols with optimal recovery and ideal protein content, that can be used for a detailed analysis of ECM proteins in pathological bone samples. Time-consuming multi-extract procedures, optimised in their precipitation methods, are however crucial for a precise detection of specific proteins, like osteocalcin. As the matter of fact, also the demineralization processes, commonly suggested and performed in several protocols, could hinder an accurate protein detection, thus inherently affecting the study of a pathological bone ECM. This study represents a starting point for the definition of appropriate strategies in the study of bone extracellular matrix proteins involved in the onset and maintenance of bone diseases, as well as a tool for the development of customized scaffolds capable to modulate a proper feedback loop in bone remodelling, altered in case of diseases like osteoporosis.