Many human viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), do not infect mice, which is challenging for biomedical research. We have previously reported that EBV infection induces erosive arthritis, which histologically resembles rheumatoid arthritis, in humanized NOD/Shi-scid/IL-2Rγnull (hu-NOG) mice; however, the underlying mechanisms are not known. Osteoclast-like multinucleated cells were observed during bone erosion in this mouse model, and therefore, we aimed to determine whether the human or mouse immune system activated bone erosion and analyzed the characteristics and origin of the multinucleated cells in hu-NOG mice. Sections of the mice knee joint tissues were immunostained with anti-human antibodies against certain osteoclast markers, including cathepsin K and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9). Multinucleated cells observed during bone erosion stained positively for human cathepsin K and MMP-9. These results indicate that human osteoclasts primarily induce erosive arthritis during EBV infections. Human osteoclast development from hematopoietic stem cells transplanted in hu-NOG mice remains unclear. To confirm their differentiation potential into human osteoclasts, we cultured bone marrow cells of EBV-infected hu-NOG mice and analyzed their characteristics. Multinucleated cells cultured from the bone marrow cells stained positive for human cathepsin K and human MMP-9, indicating that bone marrow cells of hu-NOG mice could differentiate from human osteoclast progenitor cells into human osteoclasts. These results indicate that the human immune response to EBV infection may induce human osteoclast activation and cause erosive arthritis in this mouse model. Moreover, this study is the first, to our knowledge, to demonstrate human osteoclastogenesis in humanized mice. We consider that this model is useful for studying associations of EBV infections with rheumatoid arthritis and human bone metabolism.
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