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Keywords:

  • supraspinatus tendon;
  • proteoglycans;
  • glycosaminoglycans;
  • chondrogenesis;
  • HARP/pleiotrophin

Abstract

Supraspinatus tendon overuse injuries lead to significant pain and disability in athletes and workers. Despite the prevalence and high social cost of these injuries, the early pathological events are not well known. We analyzed the potential relation between glycosaminoglycan (GAG) composition and phenotypic cellular alteration using a rat model of rotator cuff overuse. Total sulfated GAGs increased after 4 weeks of overuse and remained elevated up to 16 weeks. GAG accumulation was preceded by up-regulation of decorin, versican, and aggrecan proteoglycans (PGs) mRNAs and proteins and biglycan PG mRNA after 2 weeks. At 2 weeks, collagen 1 transcript decreased whereas mRNAs for collagen 2, collagen 3, collagen 6, and the transcription factor Sox9 were increased. Protein levels of heparin affine regulatory peptide (HARP)/pleiotrophin, a cytokine known to regulate developmental chondrocyte formation, were enhanced especially at 4 weeks, without up-regulation of HARP/pleiotrophin mRNA. Further results suggest that the increased GAGs present in early lesions may sequester HARP/pleiotrophin, which could contribute to a loss of tenocyte's phenotype. All these modifications are characteristic of a shift towards the chondrocyte phenotype. Identification of these early changes in the extra-cellular matrix may help to prevent the progression of the pathology to more disabling, degenerative alterations. © 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 30:61–71, 2012