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Comparative Analysis of the Extracellular Matrix Proteome Across the Myotendinous Junction

Journal of Proteome Research
The myotendinous junction is a highly interdigitated interface designed to transfer muscle-generated force to tendon. Understanding how this interface is formed and organized, as well as identifying tendon- and muscle-specific ECM, is critical for designing effective regenerative therapies to restore functionality to damaged muscle-tendon units. However, a comparative analysis of the ECM proteome across this interface has not been conducted. The goal of this study was to resolve the distribution of ECM proteins that are uniformly expressed as well as those specific to each of the muscle, tendon and junction tissues. The soleus muscles from 5-month-old wildtype C57BL/6 mice were harvested and dissected into the central muscle (M) away from tendon, the junction between muscle and tendon (J) and the tendon (T). Tissues were processed by either homogenizing in guanidine hydrochloride or fractionating to isolate the ECM from more soluble intracellular components and then analyzed using liquid chromatography – tandem mass spectrometry. Overall, we found that both tissue processing methods generated similar ECM profiles. Many ECM were found across the muscle-tendon unit, including type I collagen and associated fibril-regulating proteins. The ECM identified exclusively in M were primarily related to the basal lamina, whereas those specific to T and J tissue included thrombospondins and other matricellular ECM. Type XXII collagen (COL22A1) was restricted to J, and we identified COL5A3 as a potential marker of the muscle-tendon interface. Immunohistochemical analysis of key proteins confirmed the restriction of some basal lamina proteins to M, tenascin-C to T and COL22A1 to J. COL5A3, as well as PRELP and POSTN, were visualized in the tissue surrounding the junction, suggesting these proteins play a role in stabilizing the interface. This comparative map provides a guide for tissue-specific ECM that can facilitate the spatial visualization of M, J and T tissues and inform musculoskeletal regenerative therapies.


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