Abstract

Tendon injuries increase with age, yet the age-associated changes in tendon properties remain unexplained. Decorin and biglycan are two matrix proteoglycans that play complex roles in regulating tendon formation, maturation, and aging, most notably in extracellular matrix assembly and maintenance. However, the roles of decorin and biglycan have not been temporally isolated in a homeostatic aged context. The goal of this work was to temporally isolate and define the roles of decorin and biglycan in regulating aged murine patellar tendon mechanical properties. We hypothesized that decorin would have a larger influence than biglycan on aged tendon mechanical properties and that biglycan would have an additive role in this regulation. When decorin and biglycan were knocked down in aged tendons, minimal changes in gene expression were observed, implying that these models directly define the roles of decorin and biglycan in regulating tendon mechanical properties. Knockdown of decorin or biglycan led to minimal changes in quasi-static mechanical properties. However, decorin deficiency led to increases in stress relaxation and phase shift that were exacerbated when coupled with biglycan deficiency. This study highlights an important role for decorin, alone and in tandem with biglycan, in regulating aged tendon viscoelastic properties.

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