Ligament innervation purportedly plays a critical role in stability, proprioception and pathology of joints with minimal bony constraints. The human thumb carpometacarpal (CMC) joint is such a joint: with a complex saddle configuration and wide circumduction, its constraint is primarily ligamentous and it is prone to osteoarthritis. CMC reconstruction is the most commonly performed arthritis surgery in the upper extremity. Little, however, is known about CMC ligament innervation. We describe a novel triple-staining immunofluorescence technique using the markers for low-affinity neurotrophin receptor p75, the pan-neuronal marker protein gene product (PGP) 9.5 and 4',6'-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) to simultaneously detect and differentiate between specific sensory nerve endings: the Pacini corpuscles, the Ruffini endings and nerve fascicles. Five primary CMC ligaments (dorsal radial, dorsal central, posterior oblique, anterior oblique and ulnar collateral ligaments) were harvested from 10 fresh-frozen human cadaver hands. Following paraffin sectioning, each ligament was stained using a triple-stain technique and imaged with fluorescence microscopy. Multidimensional acquisition permitted simultaneous capture of images at different wavelengths. Pacini corpuscles were distinguished by their distinct p75 immunoreactive capsules, and Ruffini endings by their overlapping p75 and PGP9.5 immunoreactive dendritic nerve endings. Simultaneous use of PGP9.5, p75 and DAPI immunofluorescence to analyze innervation patterns in human ligaments provides descriptive analysis of staining patterns and receptor structure as well as clues as to the proprioceptive function of CMC ligaments and the joint as a whole. Our novel findings of CMC ligament innervation augment the study of normal and pathological joint mechanics in this joint so prone to osteoarthritis.
View details for DOI 10.1159/000327725
View details for PubMedID 21832813