Get access

Gene expression and matrix turnover in overused and damaged tendons


Corresponding author: Graham P. Riley, Head of Soft Tissue Injury and Repair Group, Rheumatology Research Unit, Box 194, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ, UK. Tel: +44(0)1223 217458, Fax: +44 (0)1223 217838, E-mail:


Chronic, painful conditions affecting tendons, frequently known as tendinopathy, are very common types of sporting injury. The tendon extracellular matrix is substantially altered in tendinopathy, and these changes are thought to precede and underlie the clinical condition. The tendon cell response to repeated minor injuries or “overuse” is thought to be a major factor in the development of tendinopathy. Changes in matrix turnover may also be effected by the cellular response to physical load, altering the balance of matrix turnover and changing the structure and composition of the tendon. Matrix turnover is relatively high in tendons exposed to high mechanical demands, such as the supraspinatus and Achilles, and this is thought to represent either a repair or tissue maintenance function. Metalloproteinases are a large family of enzymes capable of degrading all of the tendon matrix components, and these are thought to play a major role in the degradation of matrix during development, adaptation and repair. It is proposed that some metalloproteinase enzymes are required for the health of the tendon, and others may be damaging, leading to degeneration of the tissue. Further research is required to investigate how these enzyme activities are regulated in tendon and altered in tendinopathy. A profile of all the metalloproteinases expressed and active in healthy and degenerate tendon is required and may lead to the development of new drug therapies for these common and debilitating sports injuries.

Get access to the full text of this article