Odgren Lab Publications


False-positive beta-galactosidase staining in osteoclasts by endogenous enzyme: studies in neonatal and month-old wild-type mice

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Cell Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Acid Phosphatase; Animals; Animals, Newborn; Bone and Bones; False Positive Reactions; Histocytochemistry; Isoenzymes; Mice; Mice, Inbred C57BL; Osteoclasts; beta-Galactosidase


Cell Biology


Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase (beta-gal), encoded by the lacZ gene, has become an essential tool in studies of gene expression and function in higher eukaryotes. lac-Z is widely used as a marker gene to detect expression of transgenes or Cre recombinase driven by tissue-specific promoters. The timing and location of promoter activity is easily visualized in whole embryos or specific tissues using the cleavable, chromogenic substrate, 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-D-galactopyranoside (X-gal). The tissue specificity of promoters in transgenic constructs is routinely tested by using a promoter of choice to drive lacZ. Alternatively, the targeted expression of Cre recombinase to perform in vivo recombination of loxP sites can be visualized by beta-gal staining in mice carrying a Cre-activated lacZ transgene, such as the ROSA26 strain. In the course of our investigations, we examined beta-gal activity in bone tissue from genetically normal mice using standard detection methodology and found very high endogenous activity in bone-resorbing osteoclasts. This was true in frozen, paraffin, and glycol methacrylate sections. X-gal staining colocalized with the osteoclast marker, tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP). beta-gal activity was present in osteoclasts in long bones, in the mandible, and in both neonatal and more mature animals. We present this brief article as a caution to those testing genetic models of skeletal gene expression using beta-gal as a marker gene.

DOI of Published Version



Connect Tissue Res. 2006;47(4):229-34. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Connective tissue research

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID