The ultrastructure of the avian Golgi tendon organ (GTO) is described and compared with those of mammals using transverse sections through the myo-tendinous junctions of wing muscles of adult mallard ducks.
The capsule, which is continuous with the perineural epithelial sheath of the Ib afferent nerve fiber, consists of four to seven flattened cellular lamellae. Two to four muscle fibers attach to large collagen bundles which enter the GTO through a tight collar at the proximal end of the fusiform capsule. These collagen bundles divide into many smaller bundles, which run longitudinally through the lumen in compartments formed by septal cells. The septal cells contain many prominent lipid accumulations. The Ib axon divides several times, and the unmyelinated branch axons weave between the small collagen bundles. Schwann cell processes or basement membrane usually intervene between the axons and collagen bundles. The small collagen bundles regroup into larger bundles, which pass through tight capsular collars and merge with the main muscle tendon. The size of the duck GTOs was measured and found to be smaller than the GTOs of man, cat or rat.