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

Zamboulis, D E and Thorpe, C T and Ashraf Kharaz, Y and Birch, H L and Screen, H R C and Clegg, P D (2020) Postnatal mechanical loading drives adaptation of tissues primarily through modulation of the non-collagenous matrix. eLife, 9. ISSN 2050-084X

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Abstract

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 (fascicle) and surrounding predominantly non-collagenous matrix (interfascicular matrix) 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 interfascicular matrix. 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 of tissue.

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