Transcription factor scleraxis vitally contributes to progenitor lineage direction in wound healing of adult tendon in mice.J Biol Chem. 2018 04 20; 293(16):5766-5780.JB
Tendon is a dense connective tissue that transmits high mechanical forces from skeletal muscle to bone. The transcription factor scleraxis (Scx) is a highly specific marker of both precursor and mature tendon cells (tenocytes). Mice lacking scx exhibit a specific and virtually complete loss of tendons during development. However, the functional contribution of Scx to wound healing in adult tendon has not yet been fully characterized. Here, using ScxGFP-tracking and loss-of-function systems, we show in an adult mouse model of Achilles tendon injury that paratenon cells, representing a stem cell antigen-1 (Sca-1)-positive and Scx-negative progenitor subpopulation, display Scx induction, migrate to the wound site, and produce extracellular matrix (ECM) to bridge the defect, whereas resident tenocytes exhibit a delayed response. Scx induction in the progenitors is initiated by transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling. scx-deficient mice had migration of Sca-1-positive progenitor cell to the lesion site but impaired ECM assembly to bridge the defect. Mechanistically, scx-null progenitors displayed higher chondrogenic potential with up-regulation of SRY-box 9 (Sox9) coactivator PPAR-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) in vitro, and knock-in analysis revealed that forced expression of full-length scx significantly inhibited Sox9 expression. Accordingly, scx-null wounds formed cartilage-like tissues that developed ectopic ossification. Our findings indicate a critical role of Scx in a progenitor-cell lineage in wound healing of adult mouse tendon. These progenitor cells could represent targets in strategies to facilitate tendon repair. We propose that this lineage-regulatory mechanism in tissue progenitors could apply to a broader set of tissues or biological systems in the body.