Elastic fibers are present in low quantities in tendon, where they are located both within fascicles near tenocytes and more broadly in the interfascicular matrix (IFM). While elastic fibers have long been known to be significant in the mechanics of elastin-rich tissue (i.e., vasculature, skin, lungs), recent studies have suggested a mechanical role for elastic fibers in tendons that is dependent on specific tendon function. However, the exact contribution of elastin to properties of different types of tendons (e.g., positional, energy-storing) remains unknown. Therefore, this study purposed to evaluate the role of elastin in the mechanical properties and collagen alignment of functionally distinct supraspinatus tendons (SSTs) and Achilles tendons (ATs) from elastin haploinsufficient (HET) and wild type (WT) mice. Despite the significant decrease in elastin in HET tendons, a slight increase in linear stiffness of both tendons was the only significant mechanical effect of elastin haploinsufficiency. Additionally, there were significant changes in collagen nanostructure and subtle alteration to collagen alignment in the AT but not the SST. Hence, elastin may play only a minor role in tendon mechanical properties. Alternatively, larger changes to tendon mechanics may have been mitigated by developmental compensation of HET tendons and/or the role of elastic fibers may be less prominent in smaller mouse tendons compared to the larger bovine and human tendons evaluated in previous studies. Further research will be necessary to fully elucidate the influence of various elastic fiber components on structure-function relationships in functionally distinct tendons.
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