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Dev Dyn. 1999 Jul;215(3):179-89.

Role of actin stress fibres in the development of the intervertebral disc: cytoskeletal control of extracellular matrix assembly.

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Connective Tissue Biology Laboratory, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


Orientation of collagen fibrils is a key event in the development of many tissues. In the intervertebral disc, the outer annulus fibrosus comprises lamellae of parallel collagen fibres, the direction of orientation of the long axis of which alternates in angle between lamellae. In development, this organisation is preceded by the formation of sheets of oriented fibroblasts, which then deposit the oriented lamellae. Here, using fluorescent labelling, confocal and electron microscopic techniques on developmental series, we show that the orientation of cells in lamellae is associated with the formation of adherens junctions intercellularly, involving cadherins and vinculin, and longitudinal stress fibres (label for filamentous actin and tropomyosin) intracellularly. The stress fibres direct the initial elongation of cells and control the deposition of oriented extracellular matrix via junctional complexes with the matrix involving vinculin and alpha 5 beta 1 integrins, which in turn promote the formation of oriented fibronectin at the cell surface; oriented collagen is deposited between cells at the same stages. Shortly after birth, the stress fibres disappear, probably because cells now gain orientational cues from the matrix, and are undergoing differentiation-related changes to form fibrocartilage cells. Dev Dyn 1999;215:179-189.

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