Postnatal mechanical loading drives adaptation of tissues primarily through modulation of the non-collagenous matrix

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Danae E ZamboulisP. D. Clegg


Mature connective tissues demonstrate highly specialised properties, remarkably adapted to meet their functional requirements. Tissue adaptation to environmental cues can occur throughout life and poor adaptation commonly results in injury. However, the temporal nature and drivers of functional adaptation remain undefined. Here, we explore functional adaptation and specialisation of mechanically loaded tissues using tendon; a simple aligned biological composite, in which the collagen (fibre phase) and surrounding predominantly non-collagenous matrix (matrix phase) can be interrogated independently. Using an equine model of late development, we report the first phase-specific analysis of biomechanical, structural and compositional changes seen in functional adaptation, demonstrating adaptation occurs postnatally, following mechanical loading, and is almost exclusively localised to the non-collagenous matrix phase. These novel data redefine adaptation in connective tissue, highlighting the fundamental importance of non-collagenous matrix and suggesting that regenerative medicine strategies should change focus from the fibrous to the non-collagenous matrix phase of tissue.

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