Tendon Extracellular Matrix Assembly, Maintenance and Dysregulation Throughout Life

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2021:1348:45-103. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-80614-9_3.


In his Lissner Award medal lecture in 2000, Stephen Cowin asked the question: "How is a tissue built?" It is not a new question, but it remains as relevant today as it did when it was asked 20 years ago. In fact, research on the organization and development of tissue structure has been a primary focus of tendon and ligament research for over two centuries. The tendon extracellular matrix (ECM) is critical to overall tissue function; it gives the tissue its unique mechanical properties, exhibiting complex non-linear responses, viscoelasticity and flow mechanisms, excellent energy storage and fatigue resistance. This matrix also creates a unique microenvironment for resident cells, allowing cells to maintain their phenotype and translate mechanical and chemical signals into biological responses. Importantly, this architecture is constantly remodeled by local cell populations in response to changing biochemical (systemic and local disease or injury) and mechanical (exercise, disuse, and overuse) stimuli. Here, we review the current understanding of matrix remodeling throughout life, focusing on formation and assembly during the postnatal period, maintenance and homeostasis during adulthood, and changes to homeostasis in natural aging. We also discuss advances in model systems and novel tools for studying collagen and non-collagenous matrix remodeling throughout life, and finally conclude by identifying key questions that have yet to be answered.

Keywords: Aging; Collagen remodeling; Homeostasis; Non-collageneous matrix; Tendon.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Collagen
  • Extracellular Matrix*
  • Models, Biological
  • Tendons*


  • Collagen