Neuronal regulation of tendon homoeostasis

Int J Exp Pathol. 2013 Aug;94(4):271-86. doi: 10.1111/iep.12028. Epub 2013 May 30.


The regulation of tendon homoeostasis, including adaptation to loading, is still not fully understood. Accumulating data, however, demonstrates that in addition to afferent (sensory) functions, the nervous system, via efferent pathways which are associated with through specific neuronal mediators plays an active role in regulating pain, inflammation and tendon homeostasis. This neuronal regulation of intact-, healing- and tendinopathic tendons has been shown to be mediated by three major groups of molecules including opioid, autonomic and excitatory glutamatergic neuroregulators. In intact healthy tendons the neuromediators are found in the surrounding structures: paratenon, endotenon and epitenon, whereas the proper tendon itself is practically devoid of neurovascular supply. This neuroanatomy reflects that normal tendon homoeostasis is regulated from the tendon surroundings. After injury and during tendon repair, however, there is extensive nerve ingrowth into the tendon proper, followed by a time-dependent emergence of sensory, autonomic and glutamatergic mediators, which amplify and fine-tune inflammation and regulate tendon regeneration. In tendinopathic condition, excessive and protracted presence of sensory and glutamatergic neuromediators has been identified, suggesting involvement in inflammatory, nociceptive and hypertrophic (degenerative) tissue responses. Under experimental and clinical conditions of impaired (e.g. diabetes) as well as excessive (e.g. tendinopathy) neuromediator release, dysfunctional tendon homoeostasis develops resulting in chronic pain and gradual degeneration. Thus there is a prospect that in the future pharmacotherapy and tissue engineering approaches targeting neuronal mediators and their receptors may prove to be effective therapies for painful, degenerative and traumatic tendon disorders.

Keywords: homeostasis; peripheral nervous system; tendon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology*
  • Tendinopathy / physiopathology
  • Tendon Injuries / physiopathology
  • Tendons / physiology*