• human anterior cruciate ligament;
  • hamstring tendons;
  • microstructure;
  • collagen fibrils


Hamstring tendons are a commonly used substitute for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Ligaments and tendons are similar in composition but the ACL is more complex than hamstring tendons in function and gross morphology, which are highly dependent on its structure and ultrastructure. The purpose of this study was to compare the morphology and ultrastructure of normal human ACL and hamstring tendons, including the cell type and arrangement, expression level of proteoglycans, diameter, and density of collagen fibrils. Twenty semitendinosus or gracilis tendons and 20 ACL specimens were harvested from patients with ACL rupture or osteoarthritis undergoing routine total knee arthroplasty. The specimens were examined histologically and the ultrastructure was observed using scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Semitendinosus and gracilis tendons showed a homogeneous arrangement of collagen fibers and cell type. They had lower fibril density and more widely distributed fibril diameters. In the ACL, there was a more complex arrangement of collagen fibers, distribution of proteoglycans and different cell types. Electronic microscopy demonstrated a combination of parallel, helical and nonlinear networks of ACL fibrils, and fibril diameters were smaller and more nonuniform. This study compared the anatomy of normal human ACL and hamstring tendons, which may provide a standard for evaluating hamstring tendons grafts after ACL reconstruction and may facilitate the application of hamstring tendons in clinical applications. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.