European cells & materials

The blood-tendon barrier: identification and characterisation of a novel tissue barrier in tendon blood vessels.

PMID 27227787


Tissue barriers function as "gate keepers" between different compartments (usually blood and tissue) and are formed by specialised membrane-associated proteins, localising to the apicolateral plasma membrane domain of epithelial and endothelial cells. By sealing the paracellular space, the free diffusion of solutes and molecules across epithelia and endothelia is impeded. Thereby, tissue barriers contribute to the establishment and maintenance of a distinct internal and external environment, which is crucial during organ development and allows maintenance of an organ-specific homeostatic milieu. So far, various epithelial and endothelial tissue barriers have been described, including the blood-brain barrier, the blood-retina barrier, the blood-testis barrier, the blood-placenta barrier, and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-brain barrier, which are vital for physiological function and any disturbance of these barriers can result in severe organ damage or even death. Here, we describe the identification of a novel barrier, located in the vascular bed of tendons, which we term the blood-tendon barrier (BTB). By using immunohistochemistry, transmission electron microscopy, and tracer studies we demonstrate the presence of a functional endothelial barrier within tendons restricting the passage of large blood-borne molecules into the surrounding tendon tissue. We further provide in vitro evidence that the BTB potentially contributes to the creation of a distinct internal tissue environment impacting upon the proliferation and differentiation of tendon-resident cells, effects which might be fundamental for the onset of tendon pathologies.