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Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2003 Mar;11(2):122-9. Epub 2002 Nov 26.

Cyclic mechanical stretching of human patellar tendon fibroblasts: activation of JNK and modulation of apoptosis.

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Laboratory of Histology and Cell Biology, Department of Trauma Surgery, Hanover Medical School, Postbox 610180, 30623 Hanover, Germany.


Accelerated rehabilitation after tendon, ligament and bone injuries is widely accepted to avoid adverse effects of immobilization. However, progressive rehabilitation may also lead to an excessive inflammatory soft tissue response and often leads to structural and functional problems such as excessive scarring. The equivalent at the molecular/cellular level is in part the regulation of the sensitive homeostasis between proliferation and apoptosis. However, little attention has been paid to this aspect of tendon pathogenesis. This study investigated the response profile of human tendon fibroblasts in terms of apoptosis and anticipated alteration of Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation to cyclic mechanical stretching. Human tendon fibroblasts of six patients were stretched for 15 or 60 min with 1 Hz and an elongation of 5%. Activation of stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK)/JNK was measured by western blot analysis. Apoptotic cells were determined in the stretched cells and in controls by annexin-V staining and detection by flow cytometry. Additionally DNA laddering was determined by ligation-mediated (LM) polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Application of 15 and 60 min stretch increased activation of SAPK/JNK at a maximum after 60 min. However, JNK activation after the longer stretch period 50% less than after the shorter stretch period (15 min). The apoptosis rate was correspondingly increased after short stretch application but not after longer stretch. This might be caused by an inactivation of the activated JNKs by cell protection mechanisms. The findings suggest that mechanical stretching directly activates intracellular signaling pathways, which in turn induce apoptosis. The longer stretch period resulted in a decreased apoptotic rate due to development of stress tolerance. This might be caused by heat-shock protein mediated suppression of JNK activation. This novel observation is an important issue, as defined mechanical stretching, depending on its duration, modulates apoptosis and thus affects tendon remodeling.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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