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Cell Biol Int. 1996 Jan;20(1):15-27.

Structural biology of the fibres of the collagenous and elastic systems.

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Laboratory for Cell Biology, University of São Paulo School of Medicine, Brazil.


The different types of fibres of the collagenous and elastic systems can be demonstrated specifically in tissue sections by comparing the typical ultrastructural picture of each of the fibre types with studies using selective staining techniques for light microscopy. A practical modus operandi, which includes the recommended staining procedures and interpretation of the results, is presented. Micrographs and tables are provided to summarize the differential procedures. Reticulin fibres display a distinct argyrophilia when studied by means of silver impregnation techniques, and show up as a thin meshwork of weakly birefringent, greenish fibres when examined with the aid of the Picrosirius-polarization method. In addition, electron-microscopic studies showed that reticulin fibres are composed of a small number of thin collagen fibrils, contrasting with the very many thicker fibrils that could be localized ultrastructurally to the sites where non-argyrophilic, coarse collagen fibres had been characterized by the histochemical methods used. The three different fibre types of the elastic system belong to a continuous series: oxytalan-elaunin-elastic (all of the fibre types comprising collections of microfibrils with, in the given sequence, increasing amounts of elastin). The three distinct types of elastic system fibres have different staining characteristics and ultrastructural patterns. Ultrastructurally, a characteristic elastic fibre consists of two morphologically different components: a centrally located solid cylinder of amorphous and homogeneous elastin surrounded by tubular microfibrils. An oxytalan fibre is composed of a bundle of microfibrils, identical to the elastic fibre microfibrils, without amorphous material. In elaunin fibres, dispersed amorphous material (elastin) is intermingled among the microfibrils.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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