To define the matrix composition and architecture of canine flexor tendon, and to correlate tissue structure with applied mechanical loading, five anatomical regions of flexor tendon were studied. Histologically, two prominent fibrocartilaginous areas were observed on concave aspects of the tendon. The location of the major fibrocartilaginous area at the metacarpophalangeal joint correlated well with the region predicted by biomechanical modeling to be under greatest compressive loads during standing and claw movement. Comparative biochemical analysis showed an elevated water content, a fivefold higher hexuronic acid content, and a larger hydroxylysine/hydroxyproline ratio in this region relative to that for more tendinous areas. The major glycosaminoglycan component of fibrocartilaginous areas was chondroitin sulfate, whereas in other areas dermatan sulfate and hyaluronic acid dominated. Cell density and DNA analyses indicated a slightly higher cellularity for fibrocartilaginous areas and the region of vinculum insertion. These data document the existence of discrete areas of specialization within the flexor tendon that appear to be an adaptation to nutritional and mechanical factors.
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