Cytokines and apoptosis in supraspinatus tendinopathy

J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2009 Mar;91(3):417-24. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.91B3.21652.


The role of inflammatory cells and their products in tendinopathy is not completely understood. Pro-inflammatory cytokines are upregulated after oxidative and other forms of stress. Based on observations that increased cytokine expression has been demonstrated in cyclically-loaded tendon cells we hypothesised that because of their role in oxidative stress and apoptosis, pro-inflammatory cytokines may be present in rodent and human models of tendinopathy. A rat supraspinatus tendinopathy model produced by running overuse was investigated at the genetic level by custom micro-arrays. Additionally, samples of torn supraspinatus tendon and matched intact subscapularis tendon were collected from patients undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery for rotator-cuff tears and control samples of subscapularis tendon from ten patients with normal rotator cuffs undergoing arthroscopic stabilisation of the shoulder were also obtained. These were all evaluated using semiquantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain-reaction and immunohistochemistry. We identified significant upregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and apoptotic genes in the rodent model (p = 0.005). We further confirmed significantly increased levels of cytokine and apoptotic genes in human supraspinatus and subscapularis tendon harvested from patients with rotator cuff tears (p = 0.0008). These findings suggest that pro-inflammatory cytokines may play a role in tendinopathy and may provide a target for preventing tendinopathies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / genetics
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / genetics
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / metabolism
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / pathology
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis / methods
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Rotator Cuff / metabolism
  • Rotator Cuff / pathology
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries
  • Tendinopathy / genetics
  • Tendinopathy / metabolism*
  • Tendinopathy / pathology
  • Up-Regulation
  • Young Adult


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators