Flexor tendon repair in zone II is complicated by adhesions that impair normal postoperative gliding. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) is a family of growth factors that has been implicated in scar formation. The TGF-beta family of proteins binds to three distinct classes of membrane receptors, termed RI, RII, and RIII. In this study, we analyzed the temporal and spatial distribution of TGF-beta receptor isoforms (RI, RII, and RIII) in a rabbit zone II flexor tendon wound healing model.Twenty-eight adult New Zealand White rabbit forepaws underwent isolation of the middle digit flexor digitorum profundus tendon in zone II. The tendons underwent transection in zone II and immediate repair. The tendons were harvested at increasing time points: 1, 3, 7, 14, 28, and 56 days postoperatively (n = 4 at each time point). The control flexor tendons were harvested without transection and repair (n = 4). Immunohistochemical analysis was used to detect the expression patterns for TGF-beta receptors RI, RII, and RIII. Immunohistochemical staining of the transected and repaired tendons demonstrated up-regulation of TGF-beta RI, RII, and RIII protein levels. TGF-beta receptor production in the experimental group (transection and repair) was concentrated in the epitenon and along the repair site. Furthermore, the TGF-beta receptor expression levels peaked at day 14 and decreased by day 56 postoperatively. In contrast, minimal receptor expression was observed in the untransected and unrepaired control tendons. These data provide evidence that (1) TGF-beta receptors are up-regulated after injury and repair; (2) peak levels of TGF-beta receptor expression occurred at day 14 and decreased by day 56 after wounding and repair; and (3) both the tendon sheath and epitenon have the highest receptor expression, and both may play critical roles in flexor tendon wound healing. Understanding the up-regulation of TGF-beta isoforms and the up-regulation of their corresponding receptors during flexor tendon wound healing provides new targets for biomolecular modulation of postoperative scar formation.
View details for Web of Science ID 000171428900025
View details for PubMedID 11604629