Scanning Microscopy


In growth plate cartilage the mineralization starts extracellularly in the lower hypertrophic zone. The mineral formed is the calcium phosphate apatite. Enough calcium and phosphate must be available at the mineralization front as well as in regions with proceeding mineralization. There must be a transport of Ca (and phosphate) to these sites.

Electron probe X-ray microanalysis is a well established method to analyze element concentrations in small volumes, but it cannot discriminate isotopes. Strontium is similar to Ca in its chemical and biological behaviour and is therefore a suitable tracer to investigate the transport of Ca.

Small amounts of Sr (0.1 g per kg body weight) were administered intraperitoneally to young rats. After definite intervals of time ranging from 10 to 120 min, 2-4 rats were killed. On freeze dried cryosections the Sr/Ca ratio of the serum and of the intra- and extracellular space of the growth plate were measured. The Sr/Ca ratio reaches its maximum after about 10 min in the serum and after 20 min in the extracellular space of growth plate cartilage. The intracellular Sr/Ca ratio shows large variations because of the low intracellular Ca and Sr concentration, and is lower than the extracellular ratio for times shorter than 30 min. No significant differences were found between the different cell zones of the unmineralized growth plate cartilage. The results demonstrate that the transport of Ca to the growth plate cartilage is relatively fast and that in growth plate cartilage, Ca is transported extracellularly, not intracellularly.

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