Concerted and adaptive alignment of decorin dermatan sulfate filaments in the graded organization of collagen fibrils in the equine superficial digital flexor tendon


Yasutada Imamura, Department of Applied Chemistry, Faculty of Engineering, Kogakuin University, Tokyo 192-0015, Japan. T: + 81 42 6284862; F: + 81 42 6284862;


The equine superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) has a graded distribution of collagen fibril diameters, with predominantly small-diameter fibrils in the region of the myotendinous junction (MTJ), a gradual increase in large-diameter fibrils toward the osteotendinous junction (OTJ), and a mixture of small- and large-diameter fibrils in the middle metacarpal (MM) region. In this study, we investigated the ultrastructure of the SDFT, to correlate the spatial relationship of the collagen fibrils with the graded distribution. The surface-to-surface distances of pairs of fibrils were found to be almost constant over the entire tendon. However, the center-to-center distances varied according to fibril diameter. Decorin is the predominant proteoglycan in normal mature tendons, and has one dermatan sulfate (DS) or chondroitin sulfate (CS) filament as a side chain which is associated with the surfaces of the collagen fibrils via its core protein. We identified a coordinated arrangement of decorin DS filaments in the equine SDFT. The sizes of the decorin DS filaments detected by Cupromeronic blue staining showed a unique regional variation; they were shortest in the MM region and longer in the MTJ and OTJ regions, and a considerable number of filaments were arranged obliquely to adjacent collagen fibrils in the MTJ region. This regional variation of the filaments may be an adaptation to lubricate the interfibrillar space in response to local mechanical requirements. The results of this study suggest that the MTJ region, which receives the muscular contractile force first, acts as a buffer for mechanical forces in the equine SDFT.