Indexed on: 04 Oct '13Published on: 04 Oct '13Published in: Connective tissue research
The mechanical properties of the human supraspinatus tendon (SST) are highly heterogeneous and may reflect an important adaptive response to its complex, multiaxial loading environment. However, these functional properties are associated with a location-dependent structure and composition that have not been fully elucidated. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the concentrations of types I, II and III collagen in six distinct regions of the SST and compare changes in collagen concentration across regions with local changes in mechanical properties. We hypothesized that type I collagen content would be high throughout the tendon, type II collagen would be restricted to regions of compressive loading and type III collagen content would be high in regions associated with damage. We further hypothesized that regions of high type III collagen content would correspond to regions with low tensile modulus and a low degree of collagen alignment. Although type III collagen content was not significantly higher in regions that are frequently damaged, all other hypotheses were supported by our results. In particular, type II collagen content was highest near the insertion while type III collagen was inversely correlated with tendon modulus and collagen alignment. The measured increase in type II collagen under the coracoacromial arch provides evidence of adaptation to compressive loading in the SST. Moreover, the structure-function relationship between type III collagen content and tendon mechanics established in this study demonstrates a mechanism for altered mechanical properties in pathological tendons and provides a guideline for identifying therapeutic targets and pathology-specific biomarkers.