2020 Volume 82 Issue 7 Pages 948-954
The lateral cytoplasmic processes of tenocytes extend to form three-dimensional network surrounding collagen fibers. It is unknown whether connections between two cytoplasmic processes involve overlapping of the processes or merely surface contact. In this study, the two-dimensional and three-dimensional structure of tenocytes in the Achilles tendons of the newly hatched chicks were studied using transmission electron microscopy and serial block face-scanning electron microscopy. Observation of the two-dimensional structures revealed various forms of cellular connections, including connections between the cytoplasmic processes of adjacent tenocytes and between the cytoplasmic process of tenocytes and fibroblasts. Three-dimensional observation showed spike-like cytoplasmic processes extending from one tenocyte that interlocked with cytoplasmic processes from other tenocytes. Cytoplasmic processes from each tenocyte within the chick tendons interlocked to ensure a tight cell-to-cell connection around growing collagen fibers. A cellular network formed by these cytoplasmic processes surrounds each collagen fiber. Cell-cell junctions, which were suggested to be gap junctions, observed at sites of cytoplasmic process overlap most likely represent the major route for communication between tenocytes associated with fibroblasts, enabling vital signals important for maintaining the cell and tendon integrity to be transmitted.