• apoptosis;
  • degeneration;
  • rat model;
  • striated muscle;
  • transmission electron microscopy;
  • tendon lesion;


Tendon lesions induce muscular atrophy, the nature of which has not yet been clearly related to lesion etiology and entity. In the present study, tendon and muscle alterations were assessed after experimental tendon lesion of the Infraspinatus muscle in young rats. The consequences of lesions differed on the basis of both extension and injured tissue vascularization, that is apoptosis and/or degeneration, differing mainly by energy demands: apoptosis requires high energy levels (proportional to vascular supply), but degeneration does not. It is well known that tendons are poorly supplied with blood compared with muscular masses, which are abundantly vascularized. Five weeks after tendon surgical section, tendon/muscle samples were taken for TUNEL and transmission electron microscopy. The structural results reported here identified different tendon/muscle alterations: degeneration of tendon without signs of apoptosis, and atrophy of muscle fibers due only to apoptosis. This led to the formulation of the following hypothetical sequence of events: a tendon lesion, not recovering quickly due to the poor tendon blood supply, results in degeneration of the injured tendon, which, in turn, induces a partial disuse of the muscle mass, which consequently atrophies (proportionally to the severity of tendon lesion) by striated muscular fiber apoptosis. The authors suggest that the different behavior of the two tissues depends on the marked difference in their vascularization.