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Open Access Research

Tendon proper- and peritenon-derived progenitor cells have unique tenogenic properties

Michael J Mienaltowski, Sheila M Adams and David E Birk

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2014, 5:86  doi:10.1186/scrt475

Published: 8 July 2014

Abstract (provisional)


Multipotent progenitor populations exist within the tendon proper and peritenon of the Achilles tendon. Progenitor populations derived from the tendon proper and peritenon are enriched with distinct cell types that are distinguished by expression of markers of tendon and vascular or pericyte origins, respectively. The objective of this study was to discern the unique tenogenic properties of tendon proper- and peritenon-derived progenitors within an in vitro model. We hypothesized that progenitors from each region contribute differently to tendon formation; thus, when incorporated into a regenerative model, progenitors from each region will respond uniquely. Moreover, we hypothesized that cell populations like progenitors were capable of stimulating tenogenic differentiation, so we generated conditioned media from these cell types to analyze their stimulatory potentials.


Isolated progenitors were seeded within fibrinogen/thrombin gel-based constructs with or without supplementation with recombinant growth/differentiation factor-5 (GDF5). Early and late in culture, gene expression of differentiation markers and matrix assembly genes was analyzed. Tendon construct ultrastructure was also compared after 45 days. Moreover, conditioned media from tendon proper-derived progenitors, peritenon-derived progenitors, or tenocytes was applied to each of the three cell types to determine paracrine stimulatory effects of the secreted factors secreted from each of the respective cell types.


The cell orientation, extracellular domain and fibril organization of constructs were comparable to embryonic tendon. The tendon proper-derived progenitors produced a more tendon-like construct than the peritenon-derived progenitors. Seeded tendon proper-derived progenitors expressed greater levels of tenogenic markers and matrix assembly genes, relative to peritenon-derived progenitors. However, GDF5 supplementation improved expression of matrix assembly genes in peritenon progenitors and structurally led to increased mean fibril diameters. It also was found that peritenon-derived progenitors secrete factor(s) stimulatory to tenocytes and tendon proper progenitors.


Data demonstrate that, relative to peritenon-derived progenitors, tendon proper progenitors have greater potential for forming functional tendon-like tissue. Furthermore, factors secreted by peritenon-derived progenitors suggest a trophic role for this cell type as well. Thus, these findings highlight the synergistic potential of including these progenitor populations in restorative tendon engineering strategies.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.