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Dev Biol. 2011 Aug 1;356(1):28-39. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.05.003. Epub 2011 May 11.

Mesenchymal and mechanical mechanisms of secondary cartilage induction.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, 513 Parnassus Avenue, University of California San Francisco, CA 94143-0514, USA.


Secondary cartilage occurs at articulations, sutures, and muscle attachments, and facilitates proper kinetic movement of the skeleton. Secondary cartilage requires mechanical stimulation for its induction and maintenance, and accordingly, its evolutionary presence or absence reflects species-specific variation in functional anatomy. Avians illustrate this point well. In conjunction with their distinct adult mode of feeding via levered straining, duck develop a pronounced secondary cartilage at the insertion (i.e., enthesis) of the mandibular adductor muscles on the lower jaw skeleton. An equivalent cartilage is absent in quail, which peck at their food. We hypothesized that species-specific pattern and a concomitant dissimilarity in the local mechanical environment promote secondary chondrogenesis in the mandibular adductor enthesis of duck versus quail. To test our hypothesis we employed two experimental approaches. First, we transplanted neural crest mesenchyme (NCM) from quail into duck, which produced chimeric "quck" with a jaw complex resembling that of quail, including an absence of enthesis secondary cartilage. Second, we modified the mechanical environment in embryonic duck by paralyzing skeletal muscles, and by blocking the ability of NCM to support mechanotransduction through stretch-activated ion channels. Paralysis inhibited secondary cartilage, as evidenced by changes in histology and expression of genes that affect chondrogenesis, including members of the FGF and BMP pathways. Ion channel inhibition did not alter enthesis secondary cartilage but caused bone to form in place of secondary cartilage at articulations. Thus, our study reveals that enthesis secondary cartilage forms through mechanisms that are distinct from those regulating other secondary cartilage. We conclude that by directing the musculoskeletal patterning and integration of the jaw complex, NCM modulates the mechanical forces and molecular signals necessary to control secondary cartilage formation during development and evolution.

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