The localized expression of a number of extracellular matrix genes was evaluated over time in a novel rat rotator cuff injury model. The supraspinatus tendons of rats were severed at the bony insertion and repaired surgically. The healing response was evaluated at 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks post-injury using histologic and in situ hybridization techniques. Expression patterns of collagens (I, II, III, IX, X, XII), proteoglycans (decorin, aggrecan, versican, biglycan, fibromodulin), and other extracellular matrix proteins (elastin, osteocalcin, alkaline phosphatase) were evaluated at the healing tendon to bone insertion site. Histologic results indicate a poor healing response to the injury, with only partial recreation of the insertion site by 8 weeks. In situ hybridization results indicate a specific pattern of genes expressed in each zone of the insertion site (i.e., tendon, fibrocartilage, mineralized cartilage, bone). Overall, expression of collagen types I and XII, aggrecan, and biglycan was increased, while expression of collagen type X and decorin was decreased. Expression of collagen type I, collagen type XII, and biglycan decreased over time, but remained above normal at 8 weeks. Results indicate that the rat supraspinatus tendon is ineffective in recreating the original insertion site, even at 8 weeks post-injury, in the absence of biological or biomechanical enhancements. © 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.