Morphological Analysis of Abnormal Digital Chondrogenesis in the Brachypod (BpH) Mouse Limb in Organ Culture

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Brachypod (bpH/bpH), an autosomal mutation in mice, is characterized by a shortening of the long bones and paws, and a delay or absence of ossification in some of the distal limb elements. The present study represents a detailed description of the brachypod phenotype in day 12 hindlimb buds maintained for 6 days in a submerged, serum-free organ culture system. Using this in vitro system, the proximal-to-distal effect on the severity of cartilage reduction was intensified in the brachypod explants with an intermediate expression in the heterozygotes. Immunofluorescent staining of the brachypod cartilage revealed a deficiency in and an abnormal distribution of the proteoglycans. Although there was no recognizable difference in the immunofluorescent staining for type II collagen between the mutant and wild-type, electron micrographs showed the presence of thick fibrils in the matrix. Other atypical structures in the brachypod cartilage included pleomorphic nuclei, reduced intracellular glycogen granules and profuse intercellular contacts. It is proposed that with the use of this in vitro system which supports the autonomous development of the individual limb elements, experiments concerning the pathogenesis of skeletal mutations such as brachypod should be more feasible.