Murine metapodophalangeal sesamoid bones: morphology and potential means of mineralization underlying function
Normal murine metapodophalangeal sesamoid bones, closely associated with tendons, were examined in terms of their structure and mineralization with reference to their potential function following crystal deposition. This study utilized radiography, whole mount staining, histology, and conventional electron microscopy to establish a maturation timeline of mineral formation in 1- to 6-week-old metapodophalangeal sesamoids from CD-1 mice. An intimate cellular and structural relationship was documented in more detail than previously described between the sesamoid bone, tendon, and fibrocartilage enthesis at the metapodophalangeal joint. Sesamoid calcification began in 1-week lateral sesamoids of the murine metacarpophalangeal joint of the second digit. All sesamoids were completely calcified by 4 weeks. Transmission electron microscopy of 2-week metacarpophalangeal sesamoids revealed extensive Type I collagen in the associated tendon and fibrocartilage insertion sites and Type II collagen and proteoglycan networks in the interior of the sesamoid. No extracellular matrix vesicles were documented. The results demonstrate that murine sesamoid bones consist of cartilage elaborated by chondrocytes that predominantly synthesize and secrete Type II collagen and proteoglycan. Type II collagen and proteoglycans appear responsible for the onset and progression of mineral formation in this tissue. These data contribute to new understanding of the biochemistry, ultrastructure, and mineralization of sesamoids in relation to other bones and calcifying cartilage and tendon of vertebrates. They also reflect on the potentially important but currently uncertain function of sesamoids as serving as a fulcrum point along a tendon, foreshortening its length and altering advantageously its biomechanical properties with respect to tendon-muscle interaction.