Background: Expression of the growth factor osteoactivin (OA) increases during tissue degeneration and regeneration, fracture repair and after denervation-induced disuse atrophy, concomitant with increased matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). However, OA's expression with repetitive overuse injuries is unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate: 1) OA expression in an operant rat model of repetitive overuse; 2) expression of MMPs; 3) inflammatory cytokines indicative of injury or inflammation; and 4) the inducible form of heat shock protein 70 (HSPA1A/HSP72) as the latter is known to increase during metabolic stress and to be involved in cellular repair. Young adult female rats performed a high repetition negligible force (HRNF) food retrieval task for up to 6 weeks and were compared to control rats.
Methods: Flexor digitorum muscles and tendons were collected from 22 young adult female rats performing a HRNF reaching task for 3 to 6 weeks, and 12 food restricted control (FRC) rats. OA mRNA levels were assessed by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). OA, MMP-1, -2, -3, and -13 and HSP72 protein expression was assayed using Western blotting. Immunohistochemistry and image analysis was used to evaluate OA and HSP72 expression. ELISA was performed for HSP72 and inflammatory cytokines.
Results: Flexor digitorum muscles and tendons from 6-week HRNF rats showed increased OA mRNA and protein expression compared to FRC rats. MMP-1, -2 and -3 progressively increased in muscles whereas MMP-1 and -3 increased in tendons with HRNF task performance. HSP72 increased in 6-week HRNF muscles and tendons, compared to controls, and co-localized with OA in the myofiber sarcolemma. IL-1alpha and beta increased transiently in tendons or muscles in HRNF week 3 before resolving in week 6.
Conclusion: The simultaneous increases of OA with factors involved in tissue repair (MMPs and HSP72) supports a role of OA in tissue regeneration after repetitive overuse.