Ultrastructure of matrix vesicles in chick growth plate as revealed by quick freezing and freeze substitution

Toshitaka Akisaka, Hiroyuki Kawaguchi, Gus Permana Subita, Yoshio Shigenaga, Carol V. Gay

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The ultrastructure of extracellular membrane-bound matrix vesicles (MVs), their biogenesis, and the surrounding matrix in chick tibial growth plate were studied after quick freezing and freeze substitution (FS) in an organic solvent. There were several notable differences in the ultrastructural preservation of cartilage when FS was used as compared with conventional fixation. The ultrastructural appearance of MVs after FS was extremely variable. Within the MVs, intravesicular filaments, amorphous material, and membrane-associated undercoat structures were observed. Intravesicular filaments, similar in diameter to microfilaments seen in the cytoplasm, were attached to the inside of MV membranes. This observation indicates the similarity of MV membranes and the plasma membrane. In some MVs in the proliferative zone an electron-dense material was present along the inner side of the MV membrane. In the prehypertrophic zone, crystalline material often appeared within the electron-dense material, which may be a precursor form of hydroxyapatite. The earliest crystals observed were in MVs but not in the extracellular matrix. Regarding MV formation, in addition to budding from cell surfaces and to cellular disintegration, this study also indicates that a sequential process of extrusion of preformed cytoplasmic structures may occur. Also, small MVs measuring 25-40 nm seem to arise from the disruption of large MVs. This is a previously unreported observation on MV biogenesis. FS preserves proteoglycans in the cartilage matrix as a fine, filamentous network. Initial extracellular calcification was not associated with this network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-393
Number of pages11
JournalCalcified Tissue International
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1988


  • Chick
  • Epiphyseal cartilage
  • Freeze substitution
  • Matrix vesicle
  • Proteoglycan


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