In Apterygota muscles are attached to the cuticle by a series of discrete structures. The junction of the muscle and epidermal cells is demarcated by regular interdigitations of the two tissues, with desmosomes lining these processes. Within the epidermal cells, microtubules link up the desmosomes of the interdigitated region with dense material associated with cone-like depressions in the apical plasma membranes of the epidermal cells. Each of these ‘conical hemidesmosomes’ is situated opposite a pore canal. From within each cone, an electron-dense ‘muscle attachment fibre’ extends up the corresponding pore canal through the procuticle and is inserted on the epicuticle. There is no direct link between the microtubules and the muscle attachment fibres. The muscle attachment fibres are slightly elliptical in cross-section, and are twisted, this twist being in phase with the orientation of the chitin-protein microfibrils forming the lamellae of the procuticle. The attachment fibres are straight, and not helically arranged; patterns obtained in oblique sections of procuticle including these structures support the twisted ribbon model of pore canal shape. The cuticle, particularly in Thysanuran and Dipluran intersegmental membrane, displays the parabolic patterning typical of softer insect procuticle and procuticle deposition zones. The epicuticular insertion of the muscle attachment fibre is characterized by a pit in the cuticulin layer, the fibre passing through the middle of this pit.
The microtubule-associated conical hemidesmosomes appear to be cytoskeletal in function. The muscle attachment fibres are rigid structures which are not digested by the moulting fluid enzymes. New muscle attachment fibres may only become attached to the epicuticle during its formation. The structures described in regions of muscle attachment in Apterygota are similar to those recorded for other arthropods.