Ultrastructural changes of the patellar tendon as a cruciate ligament substitute (one year and two year results)

J Submicrosc Cytol Pathol. 1991 Jan;23(1):9-21.


In four black-faced sheep, the posterior cruciate ligament was replaced with a free autogenous patellar tendon transplant. Tissue samples from the transplants were investigated by light and electron microscopy 1 year and 2 years after surgery. The normal contralateral posterior cruciate ligament and the normal contralateral patellar tendon were used as controls. The structural differences concerned cells, collagen fibrils, elastic tissue and proteoglycans. Most of the cells of the contralateral patellar tendon were spindle-shaped, whereas those of the transplant were frequently chondroid. In the central region of the transplant as well as in the area far from the bone, cell degenerations, and occasionally hypo- or even acellular zones were found. Measurements of the diameter of collagen fibrils in both contralateral patellar tendon and posterior cruciate ligament showed a more or less pronounced bimodal distribution. A unimodal distribution with mainly thin fibrils (20-60 nm) was demonstrated in the transplant tissue which also revealed some morphological alterations of the collagen fibrils. Thin elastic fibers (microfibrils and amorphous material) were randomly scattered among the collagen fibrils of the control samples, bundles of microfibrils (without amorphous material) characterized the transplant. Staining with Alcian blue in the presence of 0.3 M MgCl2 demonstrated a close relationship between proteoglycans and collagen fibrils as well as elastic components in patellar tendon. This arrangement was lost in the transplant where abundant proteoglycans were revealed which, however, composed a tight irregular network between the collagen fibrils. The results serve as a baseline for understanding the impaired biochemical properties of a free autogenous patellar tendon transplant.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Elastic Tissue / metabolism
  • Elastic Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Ligaments / cytology
  • Ligaments / physiology
  • Ligaments / ultrastructure*
  • Patella
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Sheep
  • Tendons / transplantation
  • Tendons / ultrastructure*
  • Time Factors
  • Transplantation, Autologous


  • Proteoglycans
  • Collagen