Development of elastic fibers of nuchal ligament, aorta, and lung of fetal and postnatal sheep: An ultrastructural and electron microscopic immunohistochemical study
The morphogenesis of elastic fibers of the nuchal ligament, aorta, and lung of sheep was studied by light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and immunohistochemical methods for the detection of elastin. The degree of maturation of the amorphous materials of elastic fibers was assessed morphologically in preparations stained by the tannic acid and periodic acid methenamine-silver methods. With both of these methods, the amorphous components of mature fibers stained less intensely than did those of immature fibers. Elastic fibers in early stages of development consisted of many microfibrils and few, small, branching masses of immature amorphous material. Thicker fibers were formed by the coalescence of growing masses of amorphous materials. In late stages of formation of elastic fibers, the mature amorphous materials were associated with few microfibrils; and they were partially surrounded by immature amorphous materials associated with many microfibrils. Antielastin antibody reacted evenly with amorphous materials in very early stages of elastic-fiber development, but reacted only with the other zones of amorphous materials in later stages; it also reacted with the microfibrils in all stages. These findings were interpreted as indicating that the microfibrils were associated with small amounts of elastin on their surfaces. This conclusion is in agreement with ultrastructural observations showing 1) that development of microfibrils precedes that of the amorphous material and 2) that the microfibrils adjacent to the immature amorphous materials are covered with small amounts of tannic acid-positive amorphous materials. These observations suggest that microfibrils serve as sites for elastin deposition, both in early elastogenesis and in subsequent growth of elastic fibers. However, the nature of the interaction between elastin and microfibrils remains unknown.