Xenogenic bone biomaterials have been proposed as an alternative to autografts or allografts in human bone restoring or in complement of prosthetic surgery.
When appropriate treatments were applied, immunological, inflammatory, bacteriological or virological adverse responses can be prevented. However, these treatments may interact with type I collagen, the major component of the organic bone matrix. Type I collagen can bind osteoblasts via specific cell surface receptors, the integrins. In this work, two different xenogenic biomaterials were studied. Both biomaterials have a bovine bone origin. They displayed similar architectural organization with connected plates and rods and similar surface topography and roughness. They differed by the presence or not of collagen type I. The first one was characterized by preservation of the type I collagen matrix associated with spindle-shaped hydroxypatite crystals and the second was solely composed by heat-modified apatite crystals. Osteoblast-like cells (Saos-2) were cultured on both biomaterials and examined in scanning and transmission electron microscopy after 7 and 14 days. Both biomaterials were cytocompatible as demonstrated by good ultrastructural cell preservation. At the surface of the collagen containing biomaterial, cells were elongated in shape and oriented according to the trabecular architecture and to the superficial collagen network. After 14 days of culture, cells were confluent and the biomaterial surface was hidden by the cell sheet. The beta 1 integrin subunit was detected by immunogold in transmission electron microscopy in close relationship with the superficial collagen fibres of the biomaterial and with the outer cell surface. When cultures were carried out in presence of anti beta 1 integrin subunit, cells were packed and piled up with lack of specific orientation. At the surface of the deproteinized biomaterial, cells were globular without specific disposition and often partially attached to the surface. After 14 days of culture, large areas of the biomaterial surface remained uncovered. Anti beta 1 subunits conjugated with gold particles were detected around the cells but with no specific association with the deproteinized biomaterial. These results strongly suggest that presence of type I collagen fibres in the matrix of a bone biomaterial is of major interest to determine cell attachment, spreading and orientation via interaction between type I collagen and beta 1 integrin subunit of osteoblasts.