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Ann Anat. 1994 Apr;176(2):155-9.

Microfibrils: neglected components of pressure-bearing tendons.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, UNICAMP, Campinas, SP, Brazil.


Some tendons wrap around joints and receive compressive forces besides transferring the tension forces from muscle to bone. These tendons develop a fibrocartilaginous structure which enables them to withstand pressure. This article describes the existence and distribution of microfibrils (or preelastic fibers) in the pressure-bearing tendons of rabbits and dogs by the application of histochemical assays and transmission electron microscopy. Rabbit and dog tendons possess no mature elastic fibers. The rabbit tendon exhibits some response to Weigert's method prior to oxidation which indicates the existence of the so-called elaunin fibers, especially in the pressure zone. Oxidation with peracetic acid or oxone discloses intricate aspects of the oxytalan fiber distribution in both tension and pressure zones of the dog and rabbit tendons. Bundles of 12 nm microfibrils were demonstrated in the rabbit tendon by electron microscopy after fixation in the presence of tannic acid. The existence of preelastic fibers in the pressure-bearing tendons has been neglected and they are assumed to have importance in the microarchitecture of the tissue and in the ability of the tendon to support tension and compression forces.

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