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Development. 2015 Jul 15;142(14):2431-41. doi: 10.1242/dev.122374. Epub 2015 Jun 10.

Musculoskeletal integration at the wrist underlies the modular development of limb tendons.

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Research Division, Shriners Hospital for Children, Portland, OR 97209, USA.
Department of Orthopaedics, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and the Genetics Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.
Department of Orthopaedics, Gifu University, Gifu City, 501-1193, Japan.
Research Division, Shriners Hospital for Children, Portland, OR 97209, USA


The long tendons of the limb extend from muscles that reside in the zeugopod (arm/leg) to their skeletal insertions in the autopod (paw). How these connections are established along the length of the limb remains unknown. Here, we show that mouse limb tendons are formed in modular units that combine to form a functional contiguous structure; in muscle-less limbs, tendons develop in the autopod but do not extend into the zeugopod, and in the absence of limb cartilage the zeugopod segments of tendons develop despite the absence of tendons in the autopod. Analyses of cell lineage and proliferation indicate that distinct mechanisms govern the growth of autopod and zeugopod tendon segments. To elucidate the integration of these autopod and zeugopod developmental programs, we re-examined early tendon development. At E12.5, muscles extend across the full length of a very short zeugopod and connect through short anlagen of tendon progenitors at the presumptive wrist to their respective autopod tendon segment, thereby initiating musculoskeletal integration. Zeugopod tendon segments are subsequently generated by proximal elongation of the wrist tendon anlagen, in parallel with skeletal growth, underscoring the dependence of zeugopod tendon development on muscles for tendon anchoring. Moreover, a subset of extensor tendons initially form as fused structures due to initial attachment of their respective wrist tendon anlage to multiple muscles. Subsequent individuation of these tendons depends on muscle activity. These results establish an integrated model for limb tendon development that provides a framework for future analyses of tendon and musculoskeletal phenotypes.


Limb; Musculoskeletal development; Tendon

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