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J Cell Biol. 1969 Apr;41(1):59-72.

Vesicles associated with calcification in the matrix of epiphyseal cartilage.


Vesicles have been identified within the cartilage matrix of the upper tibial epiphyseal plate of normal mice. They were seen at all levels within the plate and usually did not appear to be in contact with cartilage cells. Vesicles were concentrated within the matrix of the longitudinal septa from the proliferative zone downward. They varied considerably in size ( approximately 300 A to approximately 1 micro) and in shape. They were bounded by unit membranes, and contained materials of varying density including, rarely, ribosomes. A close association was demonstrated between matrix vesicles and calcification: in the lower hypertrophic and calcifying zones of the epiphysis, vesicles were found in juxtaposition to needle-like structures removed by demineralization with ethylenediaminetetraacetate and identified by electron diffraction as hydroxyapatite and/or fluorapatite crystal structure-the former being indistinguishable from the latter for most cases in which electron diffraction methods are employed. Decalcification also revealed electron-opaque, partially membrane-bounded structures within previously calcified cartilage of the epiphyseal plate and underlying metaphysis which corresponded in size and distribution to matrix vesicles. It is suggested that matrix vesicles are derived from cells and that they may play a role in initiating calcification at the epiphysis.

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