BMC musculoskeletal disorders

Nucleostemin- and Oct 3/4-positive stem/progenitor cells exhibit disparate anatomical and temporal expression during rat Achilles tendon healing.

PMID 26290425


The recent discovery of residing tendon stem/progenitor cells has triggered a growing interest in stem cells as a useful tool in tendon repair. Our knowledge of their involvement in naturally healing tendons is, however, sparse. The aim of this study was to identify and determine stem/progenitor cells in relation to different healing phases and regions in a rat model of Achilles tendon rupture. Surgery was performed to create a mid-tendon rupture on the right Achilles tendon of 24 rats, whereas the left tendon was used as a control. Tendons were harvested at one, two, eight and 17xa0weeks post-rupture and stained with antibodies specific to stem/progenitor cells (Octamer-binding transcription factor 3/4 (Oct 3/4) and nucleostemin), migrating cells (Dynamin 2 (Dyn 2)) and leukocytes (CD45). A histological examination was performed on sections stained with Alcian blue. At one and two weeks post-rupture, a large number of stem/progenitor cells were discovered throughout the tendon. Most of these cells were nucleostemin positive, whereas only a few Oct 3/4-positive cells were found, mainly situated inside the injury region (I region). At eight and 17xa0weeks, the increment in stem/progenitor cells had diminished to equal that in the control tendons. At all time points, Oct 3/4-positive cells were also found in the connective tissue surrounding the tendon and at the muscle-tendon junction in both ruptured and control tendons and were often seen at the same location as the migration marker, Dyn 2. The whole length of the Achilles tendon is infiltrated by stem/progenitor cells at early time points after a mid-tendon rupture. However, different stem/progenitor cell populations exhibit varying anatomical and temporal expressions during Achilles tendon healing, suggesting distinct reparative implications. Oct 3/4 may thus act as a more local, migrating stem/progenitor cell involved in injury-site-specific regenerative effects, as compared to the more general proliferative role of nucleostemin-positive stem/progenitor cells.