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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Aging Cell, Volume 18, Issue 3, June 2019, Article number e12934.

The published version is available at Copyright © McBeath et al.

Publication made possible in part by support from the Thomas Jefferson University + Philadelphia University Open Access Fund


Age-related tendon degeneration (tendinosis) is characterized by a phenotypic change in which tenocytes display characteristics of fibrochondrocytes and mineralized fibrochondrocytes. As tendon degeneration has been noted in vivo in areas of decreased tendon vascularity, we hypothesized that hypoxia is responsible for the development of the tendinosis phenotype, and that these effects are more pronounced in aged tenocytes. Hypoxic (1% O2 ) culture of aged, tendinotic, and young human tenocytes resulted in a mineralized fibrochondrocyte phenotype in aged tenocytes, and a fibrochondrocyte phenotype in young and tendinotic tenocytes. Investigation of the molecular mechanism responsible for this phenotype change revealed that the fibrochondrocyte phenotype in aged tenocytes occurs with decreased Rac1 activity in response to hypoxia. In young hypoxic tenocytes, however, the fibrochondrocyte phenotype occurs with concomitant decreased Rac1 activity coupled with increased RhoA activity. Using pharmacologic and adenoviral manipulation, we confirmed that these hypoxic effects on the tenocyte phenotype are linked directly to the activity of RhoA/Rac1 GTPase in in vitro human cell culture and tendon explants. These results demonstrate that hypoxia drives tenocyte phenotypic changes, and provide a molecular insight into the development of human tendinosis that occurs with aging.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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