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J Struct Biol. 2007 Jun;158(3):293-306. Epub 2006 Nov 21.

Analysis of the orientation of primary cilia in growth plate cartilage: a mathematical method based on multiphoton microscopical images.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomechanics Research Division, University of California, Rehabilitation Bldg # 22-69, 1000 Veteran Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


The chondrocytic primary cilium has been hypothesized to act as a mechano-sensor, analogously to primary cilium of cells in epithelial tissues. We hypothesize that mechanical inputs during growth, sensed through the primary cilium, result in directed secretion of the extracellular matrix, thereby establishing tissue anisotropy in growth plate cartilage. The cilium, through its orientation in three-dimensional space, is hypothesized to transmit to the chondrocyte the preferential direction for matrix secretion. This paper reports on the application of classical mathematical methods to develop an algorithm that addresses the particular challenges relative to the assessment of the orientation of the primary cilium in growth plate cartilage, based on image analysis of optical sections visualized by multiphoton microscopy. Specimens are prepared by rapid cold precipitation-based fixation to minimize possible artifactual post-mortem alterations of ciliary orientation. The ciliary axoneme is localized by immunocytochemistry with antibody acetylated-alpha-tubulin. The method is applicable to investigation of ciliary orientation in different zones of the growth plate, under either normal or altered biomechanical environments. The methodology is highly flexible and adaptable to other connective tissues where tissue anisotropy and directed secretion of extracellular matrix components are hypothesized to depend on the tissue's biomechanical environment during development and growth.

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