Changes in the appendicular skeleton during metamorphosis in the axolotl salamander (Ambystoma mexicanum)

Parvathy Thampi, Jinpeng Liu, Zheng Zeng, James N. MacLeod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Axolotl salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum) remain aquatic in their natural state, during which biomechanical forces on their diarthrodial limb joints are likely reduced relative to salamanders living on land. However, even as sexually mature adults, these amphibians can be induced to metamorphose into a weight-bearing terrestrial stage by environmental stress or the exogenous administration of thyroxine hormone. In some respects, this aquatic to terrestrial transition of axolotl salamanders through metamorphosis may model developmental and changing biomechanical skeletal forces in mammals during the prenatal to postnatal transition at birth and in the early postnatal period. To assess differences in the appendicular skeleton as a function of metamorphosis, anatomical and gene expression parameters were compared in skeletal tissues between aquatic and terrestrial axolotls that were the same age and genetically full siblings. The length of long bones and area of cuboidal bones in the appendicular skeleton, as well as the cellularity of cartilaginous and interzone tissues of femorotibial joints were generally higher in aquatic axolotls compared with their metamorphosed terrestrial siblings. A comparison of steady-state mRNA transcripts encoding aggrecan core protein (ACAN), type II collagen (COL2A1), and growth and differentiation factor 5 (GDF5) in femorotibial cartilaginous and interzone tissues did not reveal any significant differences between aquatic and terrestrial axolotls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-477
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Anatomical Society


  • axolotl salamander
  • metamorphosis
  • skeleton

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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