Increase in sensory neuropeptides surrounding the Achilles tendon in rats with adjuvant arthritis

J Orthop Res. 2005 Mar;23(2):294-301. doi: 10.1016/j.orthres.2004.08.017.


The Achilles tendon in rats with adjuvant arthritis was analyzed by radioimmunoassay (RIA) and semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry for the occurrence of two sensory neuropeptides, substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP), and a sensory modulating peptide, galanin (GAL). The tissue concentration of SP and CGRP in the Achilles tendon and its envelope, i.e. the paratenon and bony insertion, as assessed by RIA was increased by 22% and 71%, respectively, compared to normal controls, whereas the level of GAL was unchanged. Semi-quantitative immunohistochemistry applied to different regions of the tendon in arthritic rats disclosed an increased occurrence of SP and CGRP positive nerve fibers in the paratenon and bone tendinous junction, whereas GAL fibers were only increased at the bone tendinous junction. Notably, neither neuropeptides nor inflammatory cells were seen in the tendon proper. The increased occurrence of SP and CGRP in the tendon envelope presumably reflects inflammatory actions, whereas that of GAL implies an endogenous anti-inflammatory response. The observed SP and CGRP upregulation in the paratenon and bony insertion suggests a pathophysiological role in paratenonitis and enthesitis often seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Presumably Achillodynia originates in the tendon envelope rather than the tendon proper. The observations could be used to define new pharmacological targets for mitigating symptoms from tendons in rheumatoid arthritis and possibly also in other disorders. Whether a neuronal pathogenic mechanism underlies tendon overuse disorders in non-arthritic tendinopathies and the development of degeneration, i.e. tendinosis, remains to be studied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / chemistry*
  • Achilles Tendon / pathology
  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Experimental / pathology
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / analysis
  • Female
  • Galanin / analysis
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neuropeptides / analysis*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Substance P / analysis


  • Neuropeptides
  • Substance P
  • Galanin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide