Regional collagen turnover and composition of the human patellar tendon

Cheng Zhang, Christian Couppe, Jean L. J. M. Scheijen, Casper G. Schalkwijk, Michael Kjaer, S. Peter Magnusson, Rene B. Svensson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)


Tendon pathology (tendinopathy) typically occurs in specific regions of a tendon, and growth in response to exercise also appears to be more pronounced in specific regions. In a previous study in animals we found evidence of regional differences in tendon turnover, but whether the turnover of human patellar tendon differs in different regions still remains unknown. Patellar tendons were obtained from cadavers of healthy men and women (body donation program, n = 5 donors. >60 yr of age). Samples were taken from 10 different regions along the length. width, and thickness of the tendon. Turnover was measured by C-14 bomb pulse dating and also estimated from the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) by fluorescence (340/460 tun) in addition to measurement of specific AGEs by mass spectrometry. Composition in terms of collagen, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), and DNA was also assessed in each region. C-14 results showed that all tendon regions had a similar C-14 concentration, which was equal to the average atmospheric C-14 concentration during the first 15 yr of the person's life. Fluorescence normalized to dry weight did not differ between regions. nor did specific AGEs. Higher GAG content was observed in the proximal and near the distal insertion of the tendon. In conclusion, healthy human patellar tendon displays no regional differences in collagen turnover throughout life.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY Tendon injuries and tendinopathies typically occur in specific regions of the tendon, but the reason for this specificity is not well understood. A potential factor in injury susceptibility is tissue turnover, and previous work suggests that the tendon core has practically no turnover during adult life; however, it is not known whether this is true for other regions of the tendon. Our present results on healthy human patellar tendon clearly demonstrate that turnover does not differ between regions and thereby cannot explain differences in injury susceptibility. The findings also indicate that all regions of the tendon are formed simultaneously during skeletal maturation and do not turn over appreciably during adulthood. This is an important finding because little is known about tendon growth during maturation in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-891
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • advanced glycation end products
  • autofluorescence
  • C-14 bomb pulse
  • collagen turnover
  • regional differences
  • AGE

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