, Volume 192, Issue 6, pp 483-496

Immunohistological and ultrastructural study of the developing tendons of the avian foot

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Abstract

The aim of the present report is to provide a detailed description of the morphogenesis and initial differentiation of the long tendons of the chick foot, the long autopodial tendons (LAT), from day 6 to day 11 of development. The fine structure of the developing LAT was studied by light and transmission electron microscopy. The characterization by immunofluorescent techniques of the extracellular matrix was performed using laser scanning confocal (tenascin, elastin, fibrillin, emilin, collagen type I, II, III, IV and VI) or routine fluorescence (tenascin, 13F4) microscopy. In addition, cell proliferation in pretendinous blastemas was analyzed by the detection of BrdU incorporation by immunofluorescence. The light microscopic analysis permitted the identification of different stages during LAT morphogenesis. The first stage is the formation of a thick ectoderm-mesenchyme interface along the digital rays, followed by the differentiation of the “mesenchyme lamina”, an extracellular matrix tendon precursor, and ending with the formation and differentiation of the cellular condensation that forms the tendon blastema around this lamina. The immunofluorescence study revealed the presence and arrangement of the different molecules analyzed. Tenascin and collagen type VI are precocious markers of the developing tendons and remain present during the whole process of tendon formation. Collagen type I becomes mainly restricted to the developing tendons from day 7.5. Collagens type II and IV are never detected in the developing tendons, while a faint labeling for collagen type III is first detected at day 7. The analysis of the distribution of the elastic matrix components in the developing tendons is a major contribution of our study. Elastin was detected in the periphery of the tendons from day 8 and also in fibrils anchoring the tendons to the skeletal elements. At the same stage, emilin strongly stains the core of the tendon rods, while fibrillin is detected a little later. Our study indicates the existence of an ectoderm-mesoderm interaction at the first stage of tendon formation. In addition, our results show the different spatial and temporal pattern of distribution of extracellular matrix molecules in developing tendons. Of special importance are the findings concerning the tendinous elastic matrix and its possible role in tendon maturation and stabilization.