Scanning electron microscopy of proteoglycans in metaphyseal cartilage.
Alcian blue (AB) was used for scanning electron microscope investigations on metaphyseal cartilage. In the pericellular area three-dimensional network connecting the cell membrane surface to the lacunar wall is evident. The network is formed by very long rod-like filaments about 50 nm thick. The segments may be interpreted as the proteoglycans (PGs) of the pericellular area. In the pericellular area in hypertrophic and degenerative zones, the rod-like segments are closely connected to "chain granules" which are the morphological expression of Ca-P non crystalline compounds. The rod-like segments are not at all evident either in glutaraldehyde-osmium fixed fragments or in predigested-(streptococcal hyaluronidase and chondroitinase) AB stained ones. It is concluded that AB is a good method to detect the three-dimensional spatial disposition of cartilage PGs.