Immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization observations favor a local catecholamine production in the human Achilles tendon

Histol Histopathol. 2008 Feb;23(2):197-208. doi: 10.14670/HH-23.197.


Results of recent studies using immunohistochemistry show evidence of an occurrence of catecholamine production in the cells (tenocytes) of patellar tendons exhibiting tendinopathy (tendinosis). In the present study, antibodies against the catecholamine-synthesizing enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and alpha1-adrenoreceptors were applied to sections of specimens of normal and tendinosis Achilles tendons. In situ hybridization using a probe detecting human TH mRNA was also utilized. It was found that sympathetic innervation was very scarce. On the other hand, there were distinct alpha1-adrenoreceptor immunoreactions in blood vessel walls. Interestingly, tenocytes, particularly from tendinosis samples in which the tenocytes showed an abnormal shape (not the typical slender appearance), displayed TH immunoreactions and reactions for TH mRNA. Of further interest was the finding of alpha1-adrenoreceptor immunoreactions in tenocytes. The observations show not only evidence of local catecholamine production at the protein level, which was the case in recent studies for the patellar tendon, but also at the mRNA level. The observations suggest that the tenocytes, especially those with disfigured appearances in tendinosis, can produce catecholamines and also that they can respond to sympathetic transmitters. This is of interest as adrenergic stimulation in other parts of the body is known to induce degenerative/apoptotic and proliferative events, features which are seen in Achilles tendinosis. These observations are completely new findings concerning the human Achilles tendon. It is likely that locally produced catecholamines and the occurrence of autocrine/paracrine effects of these substances are of great relevance during the process of tendinosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / innervation
  • Achilles Tendon / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Catecholamines / genetics
  • Catecholamines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods*
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1 / genetics
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1 / metabolism
  • Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Tendinopathy / metabolism*
  • Tendinopathy / pathology
  • Tendinopathy / surgery
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Catecholamines
  • Neuropeptide Y
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha-1
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase