The exceptional mechanical properties of the load-bearing connection of tendon to bone rely on an intricate interplay of its biomolecular composition, microstructure and micromechanics. Here we identify that the Achilles tendon–bone insertion is characterized by an interface region of ∼500 μm with a distinct fibre organization and biomolecular composition. Within this region, we identify a heterogeneous mechanical response by micromechanical testing coupled with multiscale confocal microscopy. This leads to localized strains that can be larger than the remotely applied strain. The subset of fibres that sustain the majority of loading in the interface area changes with the angle of force application. Proteomic analysis detects enrichment of 22 proteins in the interfacial region that are predominantly involved in cartilage and skeletal development as well as proteoglycan metabolism. The presented mechanisms mark a guideline for further biomimetic strategies to rationally design hard–soft interfaces.

L. Rossetti, L. Kuntz, E. Kunold, J. Schock, K. Müller, H. Grabmayr, J. Stolberg-Stolberg, F. Pfeiffer, S. Sieber, R. Burgkart, A.R. Bausch (2017)

The microstructure and micromechanics of the tendon–bone insertion

Nature Materials 16, 664-670

Muscle forces are produced by repeated stereotypical actomyosin units called sarcomeres. Sarcomeres are chained into linear myofibrils spanning the entire muscle fiber. In mammalian body muscles, myofibrils are aligned laterally, resulting in their typical cross-striated morphology. Despite this detailed textbook knowledge about the adult muscle structure, it is still unclear how cross-striated myofibrils are built in vivo. We investigate the morphogenesis of Drosophila abdominal muscles and establish them as an in vivo model for cross-striated muscle development. By performing live imaging, we find that long immature myofibrils lacking a periodic actomyosin pattern are built simultaneously in the entire muscle fiber and then align laterally to give mature cross-striated myofibrils. Interestingly, laser micro-lesion experiments demonstrate that mechanical tension precedes the formation of the immature myofibrils. Moreover, these immature myofibrils do generate spontaneous Ca2+-dependent contractions in vivo, which, when chemically blocked, result in cross-striation defects. Taken together, these results suggest a myofibrillogenesis model in which mechanical tension and spontaneous muscle twitching synchronize the simultaneous self-organization of different sarcomeric protein complexes to build highly regular cross-striated myofibrils spanning the length of large muscle fibers.

M. Weitkunat, M. Lindauer, A.R. Bausch and F. Schnorrer (2017)

Mechanical tension and spontaneous muscle twitching precede the formation of cross-striated muscle in vivo

Development 144, 1261-1272