Scleraxis is a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that plays a central role in promoting fibroblast proliferation and matrix synthesis during the embryonic development of tendons. Mice with a targeted inactivation of scleraxis (Scx(-/-)) fail to properly form limb tendons, but the role that scleraxis has in regulating the growth and adaptation of tendons of adult organisms is unknown. To determine if scleraxis expression changes in response to a physiological growth stimulus to tendons, we subjected adult mice that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of the scleraxis promoter (ScxGFP) to a 6-week-treadmill training program designed to induce adaptive growth in Achilles tendons. Age matched sedentary ScxGFP mice were used as controls. Scleraxis expression was sparsely observed in the epitenon region of sedentary mice, but in response to treadmill training, scleraxis was robustly expressed in fibroblasts that appeared to be emerging from the epitenon and migrating into the superficial regions of tendon fascicles. Treadmill training also led to an increase in scleraxis, tenomodulin, and type I collagen gene expression as measured by qPCR. These results suggest that in addition to regulating the embryonic formation of limb tendons, scleraxis also appears to play an important role in the adaptation of adult tendons to physiological loading.
Copyright © 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society.