Influence of a single loading episode on gene expression in healing rat Achilles tendons

Pernilla Eliasson, Therese Andersson, Per Aspenberg
Journal of Applied Physiology 2012, 112 (2): 279-88
Mechanical loading stimulates tendon healing via mechanisms that are largely unknown. Genes will be differently regulated in loaded healing tendons, compared with unloaded, just because of the fact that healing processes have been changed. To avoid such secondary effects and study the effect of loading per se, we therefore studied the gene expression response shortly after a single loading episode in otherwise unloaded healing tendons. The Achilles tendon was transected in 30 tail-suspended rats. The animals were let down from the suspension to load their tendons on a treadmill for 30 min once, 5 days after tendon transection. Gene expression was studied by Affymetrix microarray before and 3, 12, 24, and 48 h after loading. The strongest response in gene expression was seen 3 h after loading, when 150 genes were up- or downregulated (fold change ≥2, P ≤ 0.05). Twelve hours after loading, only three genes were upregulated, whereas 38 were downregulated. Fewer than seven genes were regulated after 24 and 48 h. Genes involved in the inflammatory response were strongly regulated at 3 and 12 h after loading; this included upregulation of iNOS, PGE synthase, and IL-1β. Also genes involved in wound healing/coagulation, angiogenesis, and production of reactive oxygen species were strongly regulated by loading. Microarray results were confirmed for 16 selected genes in a repeat experiment (N = 30 rats) using real-time PCR. It was also confirmed that a single loading episode on day 5 increased the strength of the healing tendon on day 12. In conclusion, the fact that there were hardly any regulated genes 24 h after loading suggests that optimal stimulation of healing requires a mechanical loading stimulus every day.

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