Electron microscopy reveals structural and chemical changes at the nanometer scale in the osteogenesis imperfecta murine pathology


Alternations of collagen and mineral at the molecular level may have a significant impact on the strength and toughness of bone. In this study, scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) were employed to study structural and compositional changes in bone pathology at nanometer spatial resolution. Tail tendon and femoral bone of osteogenesis imperfecta murine (oim, brittle bone disease) and wild type (WT) mice were compared to reveal defects in the architecture and chemistry of the collagen and collagen-mineral composite in the oim tissue at the molecular level. There were marked differences in the substructure and organization of the collagen fibrils in the oim tail tendon; some regions have clear fibril banding and organization, while in other regions fibrils are disorganized. Malformed collagen fibrils were loosely packed, often bent and devoid of banding pattern. In bone, differences were detected in the chemical composition of mineral in oim and WT. While mineral present in WT and oim bone exhibited the major characteristics of apatite, examination in EELS of the fine structure of the carbon K ionization edge revealed a significant variation in the presence of carbonate in different regions of bone. Variations have been also observed in the fine structure and peak intensities of the nitrogen K-edge. These alterations are suggestive of differences in the maturation of collagen nucleation sites or cross-links. Future studies will aim to establish the scale and impact of the modifications observed in oim tissues. The compositional and structural alterations at the molecular level cause deficiencies at larger length scales. Understanding the effect of molecular alterations to pathologic bone is critical to the design of effective therapeutics.

Journal details

Volume 3
Issue number 11
Pages 2788-2797
Available online
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