Novel roles for scleraxis in regulating adult tenocyte function

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Background Tendinopathies are common and difficult to resolve due to the formation of scar tissue that reduces the mechanical integrity of the tissue, leading to frequent reinjury. Tenocytes respond to both excessive loading and unloading by producing pro-inflammatory mediators, suggesting that these cells are actively involved in the development of tendon degeneration. The transcription factor scleraxis (Scx) is required for the development of force-transmitting tendon during development and for mechanically stimulated tenogenesis of stem cells, but its function in adult tenocytes is less well-defined. The aim of this study was to further define the role of Scx in mediating the adult tenocyte mechanoresponse.

Results Equine tenocytes exposed to siRNA targeting Scx or a control siRNA were maintained under cyclic mechanical strain before being submitted for RNA-seq analysis. Focal adhesions and extracellular matrix-receptor interaction were among the top gene networks downregulated in Scx knockdown tenocytes. Correspondingly, tenocytes exposed to Scx siRNA were significantly softer, with longer vinculin-containing focal adhesions, and an impaired ability to migrate on soft surfaces. Other pathways affected by Scx knockdown included increased oxidative phosphorylation and diseases caused by endoplasmic reticular stress, pointing to a larger role for Scx in maintaining tenocyte homeostasis.

Conclusions Our study identifies several novel roles for Scx in adult tenocytes, which suggest that Scx facilitates mechanosensing by regulating the expression of several mechanosensitive focal adhesion proteins. Furthermore, we identified a number of other pathways and targets affected by Scx knockdown that have the potential to elucidate the role that tenocytes may play in the development of degenerative tendinopathy.

BMC Cell Biology. 2018 Aug 07;19(1):14