An investigation of cellular dynamics during the development of intramembranous bones: the scleral ossicles

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Abstract

The development of intramembranous bone is a dynamic and complex process requiring highly coordinated cellular activities. Although the literature describes the detailed cellular dynamics of early mesoderm-derived endochondral bone, studies regarding neural crest-derived intramembranous bone have failed to keep pace. We analyzed the development of chick scleral ossicles from the onset of osteoid deposition to mineralization at morphological, histological, and ultrastructural levels. We find that the mesenchymal condensations from which ossicles develop change their shape from ellipsoidal to trapezoidal concurrent with an increase in size. Furthermore, the size of an ossicle is dependent upon its time of induction. Our histological analyses of condensation growth reveal cell migration and osteoid secretion as key cellular processes determining condensation size; these processes occur concomitantly to increase both the area and thickness of condensations. We also describe the formation of the zone of overlap between ossicles and conclude that the process is similar to that of cranial suture formation. Finally, transmission electron microscopy of early condensations demonstrates that early osteoblasts secrete collagen parallel to the long axis of the condensation. This study elucidates fundamental mechanisms of intramembranous bone development at the cellular level, furthering our knowledge of this important process among vertebrates.

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