The insertion site of the tendon to the skeletal element is hypovascular and is one of the most common sites of dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system. However, the resident cells have been poorly defined due to a lack of a specific marker for tenocytes. We previously reported that Tenomodulin (Tnmd) and Chondromodulin-1 (Chm1) are homologous angiogenesis inhibitors and predominantly expressed in the avascular region of tendons and cartilage, respectively. In this study, we analyzed the expression of Tnmd, Chm1, alpha 1 chain of the type I collagen (Col1a1) and alpha 1 chain of the type II collagen (Col2a1) at the insertion site of the Achilles, patellar, or rotator cuff tendons of 1-week-old rabbits by in situ hybridization analysis. Tnmd was co-expressed with Col1a1 in tenocytes of these tendons, while Chm1 and Col2a1 were detected in chondrocytes of the hyaline cartilage. Interestingly, the cell population between Tnmd/Col1a1 positive tenocytes and Chm1/Col2a1 positive chondrocytes expressed Col1a1 but none of the other markers (Tnmd, Chm1, and Col2a1). Red blood cells were exclusively present at the interface between the tendon substance and cartilage in the insertion site of the Achilles tendon. Lack of Tnmd and Chm1 in this newly characterized cell population may allow the transitional zone between the poorly vascularized tendon and cartilage to establish the unique vascular pattern for blood supply.
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