The human pisiform is a small, nodular, although functionally significant, bone of the wrist. In most other mammals, including apes and Australopithecus afarensis, pisiforms are elongate. An underappreciated fact is that the typical mammalian pisiform forms from two ossification centers. We hypothesize that: (i) the presence of a secondary ossification center in mammalian pisiforms indicates the existence of a growth plate; and (ii) human pisiform reduction results from growth plate loss. To address these hypotheses, we surveyed African ape pisiform ossification and confirmed the presence of a late-forming secondary ossification center in chimpanzees and gorillas. Identification of the initial ossification center occurs substantially earlier in apes relative to humans, raising questions concerning the homology of the human pisiform and the two mammalian ossification centers. Second, we conducted histological and immunohistochemical analyses of pisiform ossification in mice. We confirm the presence of two ossification centers separated by organized columnar and hypertrophic chondrocyte zones. Flattened chondrocytes were highly mitotic, indicating the presence of a growth plate. Hox genes have been proposed to play a fundamental role in growth plate patterning. The existence of a pisiform growth plate presents an interesting test case for the association between Hox expression and growth plate formation, and could explain the severe effects on the pisiform observed in Hoxa11 and Hoxd11 knockout mice. Consistent with this hypothesis, we show that Hoxd11 is expressed adjacent to the pisiform in late-stage embryonic mouse limbs supporting a role for Hox genes in growth plate specification. This raises questions concerning the mechanisms regulating Hox expression in the developing carpus.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology