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J Anat. 2010 Apr;216(4):533-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2009.01207.x. Epub 2010 Feb 10.

The elastic network of articular cartilage: an immunohistochemical study of elastin fibres and microfibrils.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. jing.yu@dpag.ox.ac.uk


The elastic network of articular cartilage was investigated by immunohistochemistry using specific antibodies to elastin and fibrillin-1. Articular cartilage was dissected from defined regions of bovine metacarpophalangeal joints. Elastin fibres and microfibrils were dual-immunostained by labelling with distinct fluorescent dyes. A conventional fluorescence microscope combined with a polarized light filter was used to study the organization and degree of colocalization of elastin fibres, microfibrils and of the collagen network. We observed an elaborately organized elastic network. In the uppermost superficial zone, where few cells were present, elastin fibres and microfibrils formed a dense three dimensional network showing some degree of colocalization. The thickness and organization of this elastic network varied dramatically from region to region and was most extensive in the metacarpal palmar region. In the middle and deep zones, very few elastin fibres were observed but microfibrils formed a network in the inter-territorial matrix and dense network around the cells. Our finding of a three dimensional network of dense, well organized elastin fibres and microfibrils in the surface zone of the articular cartilage matrix, and a dense network of microfibrils around the cells deeper into the tissue suggests the elastic network could play both a mechanical and a biological role in articular cartilage.

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