Cranial sutures and bones: Growth and fusion in relation to masticatory strain



Cranial bones and sutures are mechanically loaded during mastication. Their response to masticatory strain, however, is largely unknown, especially in the context of age change. Using strain gages, this study investigated masticatory strain in the posterior interfrontal and the anterior interparietal sutures and their adjacent bones in 3- and 7-month-old miniature swine (Sus scrofa). Double-fluorochrome labeling of these animals and an additional 5-month group was used to reveal suture and bone growth as well as features of suture morphology and fusion. With increasing age, the posterior interfrontal suture strain decreased in magnitude and changed in pattern from pure compression to both compression and tension, whereas the interparietal suture remained in tension and the magnitude increased unless the suture was fused. Morphologically, the posterior interfrontal suture was highly interdigitated at 3 months and then lost interdigitation ectocranially in older pigs, whereas the anterior interparietal suture remained butt-ended. Mineralization apposition rate (MAR) decreased with age in both sutures and was unrelated to strain. Bone mineralization was most vigorous on the ectocranial surface of the frontal and the parietal bones. Unlike the sutures, with age bone strain remained constant while bone MARs significantly increased and were correlated with bone thickness. Fusion had occurred in the interparietal suture of some pigs. In all cases fusion was ectocranial rather than endocranial. Fusion appeared to be associated with increased suture strain and enhanced bone growth on the ectocranial surface. Collectively, these results indicate that age is an important factor for strain and growth of the cranium. Anat Rec Part A 276A:150–161, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.