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Keywords:

  • biglycan;
  • collagen;
  • decorin;
  • Sox9;
  • transforming-growth-factor-beta

Abstract

One major aim of regenerative medicine targeting the musculoskeletal system is to provide complementary and/or alternative therapeutic approaches to current surgical therapies, often involving the removal and prosthetic substitution of damaged tissues such as ligaments. For these approaches to be successful, detailed information regarding the cellular and molecular composition of different musculoskeletal tissues is required. Ligaments have often been considered homogeneous tissues with common biomechanical properties. However, advances in tissue engineering research have highlighted the functional relevance of the organisational and compositional differences between ligament types, especially in those with higher risks of injury. The aim of this study was to provide information concerning the relative expression levels of a subset of key genes (including extracellular matrix components, transcription factors and growth factors) that confer functional identity to ligaments. We compared the transcriptomes of three representative human ligaments subjected to different biomechanical demands: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL); the ligamentum teres of the hip (LT); and the iliofemoral ligament (IL). We revealed significant differences in the expression of type I collagen, elastin, fibromodulin, biglycan, transforming growth factor β1, transforming growth interacting factor 1, hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha and transforming growth factor β-induced gene between the IL and the other two ligaments. Thus, considerable molecular heterogeneity can exist between anatomically distinct ligaments with differing biomechanical demands. However, the LT and ACL were found to show remarkable molecular homology, suggesting common functional properties. This finding provides experimental support for the proposed role of the LT as a hip joint stabiliser in humans.