Loading can stimulate tendon healing. In healing rat Achilles tendons, we have found more than 150 genes upregulated or downregulated 3 h after one loading episode. We hypothesized that these changes were preceded by a smaller number of regulatory genes and thus performed a microarray 15 min after a short loading episode, to capture the primary response to loading. We transected the Achilles tendon of 54 rats and allowed them to heal. The hind limbs were unloaded by tail-suspension during the entire experiment, except during the loading episode. The healing tendon tissue was analyzed by mechanical testing, microarray, and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Mechanical testing showed that 5 min of loading each day for 4 days created stronger tissue. The microarray analysis after one loading episode identified 15 regulated genes. Ten genes were analyzed in a repeat experiment with new rats using qRT-PCR. This confirmed the increased expression of four genes: early growth response 2 (Egr2), c-Fos, FosB, and regulation of G protein signaling 1 (Rgs1). The other genes were unaltered. We also analyzed the expression of early growth response 1 (Egr1), which is often co-regulated with c-Fos or Egr2, and found that this was also increased after loading. Egr1, Egr2, c-Fos, and FosB are transcription factors that can be triggered by numerous stimuli. However, Egr1 and Egr2 are necessary for normal tendon development, and can induce ectopic expression of tendon markers. The five regulated genes appear to constitute a general activation machinery. The further development of gene regulation might depend on the tissue context.
Journal of Applied Physiology (bethesda, Md. : 1985), 2013, Vol 114, Issue 11, p. 1519-26