Calcified Tissue International

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 137–148 | Cite as

Temporal relationship between fetal bovine skeletal growth and circulating hormonal levels

  • K. W. Kan
  • R. L. Cruess
Laboratory Investigations


Skeletal growth and serum hormonal levels in bovine fetuses were studied cross-sectionally from late first trimester to late third trimester, of gestation (corresponding approximately to 75–275 days of age, and a crown-rump (CR) 5–105 cm/in size). Measurements of tibial and femoral lengths showed that bone growth proceeds at a 30% faster rate in fetuses of 50–105 cm CR, coincident with the appearance and exponential growth (y= 0.000207 e0.12522x; y, dried weights of ossification in grams and x, CR in cm) of a secondary center of ossification in the epiphysis. During this period there is an increase in the proportion of [3H]-thymidine-labeled nuclei (measured by autoradiography) in the proliferative zone of the epiphyseal growth plate and a progressive hypertrophy of chondrocytes in the epiphysis; in serum there is a rise in alkaline phosphatase activity, a rise in the calcium, and a decrease in the phosphorus concentrations. Cellularity (nuclei/area) and the proportion of [3H]-thymidine labeled nuclei in epiphyseal cartilage decline during the period of 15–105 cm CR, except at 25–45 cm CR when both parameters of chondrocyte growth have transiently stabilized. [35S]-Sulfate and [3H]-proline incorporation (cpm/100 μg DNA) in epiphyseal cartilage also decline initially during 10–25 cm CR, then attain a stable level during 25–50 cm CR; subsequently, [35S]-sulfate incorporation gradually increases and [3H]-proline incorporation remains at a constant level. The proportion of [3H-thymidine-labeled nuclei in the epiphyseal growth plate also declines in early gestation, then becomes stabilized at 20–50 cm CR. The whole growth plate thickness varies during gestation and is maximal during 20–50 cm CR. The proliferative zone attains maximal thickness at 20–50 cm CR while the hypertrophied and degenerative zone has maximal thickness at 40–80 cm CR. Gestational changes of hormone levels were quantitated in fetal serum. Glucocorticoids and thyroxine were measured by radioimmunoassay; somatomedinlike bioactivity was measured as the capacity of a serum sample to stimulate [3H]-thymidine incorporation in chondrocytes compared to that of a control serum. Temporally related to the changes occurring in the skeletal tissues, there is a high serum level of glucocorticoids at 10–20 cm CR when the cartilaginous activities are declining, a peak level of serum somatomedinlike bioactivity at 20–50 cm CR when cartilage growth and metabolism become stabilized, and a rise of thyroxine level after 45 cm CR during which time there is an increasing rate of bone formation. The present results demonstrate a temporal relationship between changes in long bone growth, secondary ossification, biological activities in epiphyseal cartilage, serum levels of minerals, alkaline phosphatase activity, and circulating hormones in bovine fetuses.

Key words

Fetus Cartilage Hormones Bone 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. W. Kan
    • 1
  • R. L. Cruess
    • 1
  1. 1.Orthopaedic Research LaboratoryRoyal Victoria HospitalMontrealCanadaH3A 1A1

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