Eekhoff et al., JMBBM, 2020

J Mech Behav Biomed Mater. 2020 Oct 7;113:104134. doi: 10.1016/j.jmbbm.2020.104134. Online ahead of print.

Dysregulated assembly of elastic fibers in fibulin-5 knockout mice results in a tendon-specific increase in elastic modulus

Jeremy D Eekhoff, Heiko Steenbock, Ian M Berke, J├╝rgen Brinckmann, Hiromi Yanagisawa, Jessica E Wagenseil, Spencer P Lake

Elastic fiber assembly is coordinated in part by fibulin-5, a matricellular protein. When fibulin-5 is not available to guide elastogenesis, elastin forms into disconnected globules instead of the dense elastic fiber core found in healthy tissues. Despite the growing evidence for a significant role of elastic fibers in tendon mechanics and the clinical relevance to cutis laxa, a human disease which can be caused by a mutation in the gene encoding fibulin-5, it is unknown how malformed elastic fibers affect tendon function. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of dysregulated elastic fiber assembly in tendons from fibulin-5 knockout mice in comparison to wild-type controls. Due to evidence for a more prominent role of elastic fibers in tendons with higher functional demands, both the energy-storing Achilles tendon and the more positional tibialis anterior tendon were evaluated. The linear modulus of knockout Achilles tendons was increased compared to controls, yet there was no discernible change in mechanical properties of the tibialis anterior tendon across genotypes. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of malformed elastic fibers in knockout tendons while no other changes to tendon composition or structure were found. The mechanism behind the increase in linear modulus in fibulin-5 knockout Achilles tendons may be greater collagen engagement due to decreased regulation of strain-induced structural reorganization. These findings support the theory of a significant, functionally distinct role of elastic fibers in tendon mechanics.