Objectives: To quantify the intratendinous levels of substance P (SP) at different stages of overload in an established model for Achilles tendinopathy (rabbit). Also, to study the distribution of the SP-receptor, the NK-1R, and the source of SP, in the tendon.
Methods: Animals were subjected to the overuse protocol for 1, 3 or 6 weeks. One additional group served as unexercised controls. Immunoassay (EIA), immunohistochemistry (IHC), and in situ hybridisation (ISH) were performed.
Results: EIA revealed increased SP-levels in the Achilles tendon of the exercised limb in all the experimental groups as compared to in the controls (statistically significant; p=0.01). A similar trend in the unexercised Achilles tendon was observed but was not statistically significant (p=0.14). IHC and in ISH illustrated reactions of both SP and NK-1R mainly in blood vessel walls, but the receptor was also found on tenocytes.
Conclusions: Achilles tendon SP-levels are elevated already after 1 week of loading. This shows that increased SP-production precedes tendinosis, as tendinosis-like changes occur only after a minimum of 3 weeks of exercise, as shown in a recent study using this model. We propose that central neuronal mechanism may be involved as similar trends were observed in the contralateral Achilles tendon.