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Am J Pathol. 1996 Sep; 149(3): 933–943.
PMCID: PMC1865170

Tenascin-C and human tendon degeneration.


We investigated the distribution of tenascin in supraspinatus tendons to determine whether an alteration in tenascin expression was associated with human tendon degeneration. Tenascin was present in all of the tendons studied, although with two distinct patterns of expression. First, tenascin was associated with organized, fibrous regions of the tendon matrix that were typical of the normal tendon structure. This distribution is consistent with a role for tenascin in collagen fibril organization, perhaps maintaining the interface between fibrils and adjacent structures. Second, although tenascin was generally absent from poorly organized matrix in degenerate tendons, it was strongly associated with some rounded cells in disorganized fibrocartilaginous regions that were more abundant in pathological specimens. Tenascin was also found around infiltrating blood vessels, with more intense staining associated with a mononuclear cell infiltrate. Western blotting of tendon extracts showed differences in tenascin isoform expression, with only the small (200-kd) tenascin isoform found in normal tendons. Degenerate tendons also expressed the 300-kd isoform, consistent with a role for the larger tenascin isoform in tendon disease, potentially stimulating tenocyte proliferation, cell rounding, and fibrocartilaginous change. Proteolytic fragments of tenascin were detected but only in ruptured tendons, an indication of matrix remodeling in degenerate tendons, with fragment sizes consistent with the activity of matrix metalloproteinase enzymes.

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