Postnatal Bone Elongation of the Manus versus Pes: Analysis of the Chondrocytic Differentiation Cascade in Mus musculus and Eptesicus fuscusFarnum C.E. · Tinsley M. · Hermanson J.W.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., USA
Bones elongate postnatally by endochondral ossification as cells of the cartilaginous growth plate undergo a differentiation cascade of proliferation, cellular hypertrophy and matrix synthesis. Interspecific comparisons of homologous bones elongating at different rates has been a useful approach for studying the dynamics of this process. The purpose of this study was to measure quantitative stereological parameters of growth plates of the third digit of the manus and pes of the laboratory mouse, and make comparisons to chondrocytic performance parameters in the homologous bones of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus, where extremely rapid postnatal elongation of bones of the manus is associated with skeletal modifications for powered flight. Measurements were made across all zones of forelimb and hindlimb autopod growth plates by dividing each growth plate into strata of equal height (from thirteen 200-µm-high strata in the metacarpus to five 40-µm-high strata in phalangeal bones of the pes). Results indicate that all chondrocytic performance parameters known to quantitatively contribute to the elongation potential of a growth plate change together. A significant finding was that in growth plates of the chiropteran manus, final hypertrophic cell size and shape were achieved early in the zone of hypertrophy, indicating that interstitial expansion of the growth plate resulting from the incremental chondrocytic height increase in the direction of elongation was completed soon after the transition from the cessation of proliferation to the initiation of hypertrophy. This is unlike what has been reported in most mammalian growth plates previously analyzed, but is the situation in the proximal tibial growth plate of rapidly growing frogs and precocial birds. This suggests that a similar adaptation for stabilization of a rapidly elongating bone has evolved independently in three widely separated groups that have in common rapid growth in limbs to be used for early active, powered locomotion.