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The distribution of microfibrils was studied immunohistochemically in intervertebral discs taken from young normal human surgical cases and from the bovine tail. Co-localization of microfibrils and elastin fibres was examined by dual immunostaining of fibrillin-1 and elastin. Collagen fibre network orientation was studied by using polarized filters. A similar microfibrillar network was seen in both bovine and human discs with network organization being completely different from region to region. In the outer annulus fibrosus (OAF), abundant microfibrils organized in bundles were mainly distributed in the interterritorial matrix. In addition, the microfibril bundles were orientated parallel to each other and co-localized highly with elastin fibres. Within each lamella, co-localized microfibrils and elastin fibres were aligned in the same direction as the collagen fibres. In the interlamellar space, a dense co-localized network, staining for both microfibrils and elastin fibres, was apparent; immunostaining for both molecules was noticeably stronger than within lamellae. In the inner annulus fibrosus, the microfibrils were predominantly visible as a filamentous mesh network, both in the interterritorial matrix and also around the cells. The microfibrils in this region co-localized with elastin fibres far less than in the OAF. In nucleus pulposus, filamentous microfibrils were organized mainly around the cells where elastin fibres were hardly detected. By contrast, sparse elastin fibres, with a few of microfibrils, were visible in the interterritorial matrix. The results of this study suggest the microfibrillar network of the annulus may play a mechanical role while that around the cells of the nucleus may be more involved in regulating cell function.

Original publication




Journal article


J anat

Publication Date





460 - 471


Adolescent, Animals, Cattle, Child, Elastin, Extracellular Matrix, Fibrillar Collagens, Fibrillin-1, Fibrillins, Humans, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Immunohistochemistry, Intervertebral Disc, Lumbar Vertebrae, Microfibrils, Microfilament Proteins, Microscopy, Confocal, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Muscle Fibers, Skeletal, Tail