Ex vivo model of cranial suture morphogenesis and fate

Bethany J. Slater, Kelly A. Lenton, Aaron James, Michael T. Longaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aims: Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of cranial sutures, is a common congenital defect. In vivo models for studying cranial suture biology impose inherent restrictions on tissue accessibility and manipulation. The present study was performed to investigate the utility of the renal capsule assay in overcoming these limitations and providing a reproducible model system for studying cranial suture morphogenesis and fate. Materials and Methods: The posterior frontal suture, which fuses physiologically, and the coronal and sagittal sutures, which remain patent, were dissected from postnatal and embryonic mouse calvaria and placed under the renal capsule of syngeneic recipient mice (n = 72 in total). Sutures were harvested from 1-14 days after transplantation for histological and morphometric analysis. Suture transplants were compared with nonmanipulated sutures at equivalent developmental stages. The derivation of cells associated with the growing transplants was analyzed using β-actin-GFP (green fluorescent protein) transgenic mice. Results: Sutures transplanted under the renal capsule maintained normal suture morphology and fate with the posterior frontal suture fusing and the coronal and sagittal sutures remaining patent. In posterior frontal suture transplants, the fusion process mimicked in vivo suture fusion with a delay of 1-2 days. In comparison to in vivo suture complexes, transplant thickness and trabeculation were significantly increased. In addition, we found that osteoblasts within the growing transplant were derived from the transplant itself rather than the host. Conclusion: The renal capsule supports the growth of cranial sutures. In this system transplanted sutures recapitulate the anatomical development and fate (fusion or patency) of cranial sutures in vivo. This model system will facilitate controlled ex vivo manipulations of both embryonic and postnatal sutures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-346
Number of pages11
JournalCells Tissues Organs
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Coronal suture
  • Cranial suture
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Mouse
  • Posterior frontal suture
  • Renal capsule
  • Sagittal suture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology

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