Ten Weeks of Treadmill Running Decreases Stiffness and Increases Collagen Turnover in Tendons of Old Mice

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Increased tendon stiffness in response to mechanical loading is well established in young animals. Given that tendons stiffen with aging, we aimed to determine the effect of increased loading on tendons of old animals. We subjected 28-month-old mice to 10 weeks of uphill treadmill running; sedentary 8- and 28-month-old mice served as controls. Following training, plantaris tendon stiffness and modulus were reduced by approximately half, such that the values were not different from those of tendons from adult sedentary animals. The decrease in plantaris tendon stiffness was accompanied by a similar reduction in the levels of advanced glycation end-product protein adducts in tibialis anterior tendons of trained compared with sedentary old mice. In Achilles tendons, elevated mRNA levels for collagen type 1, matrix-metalloproteinase-8, and lysyl oxidase following training suggest that collagen turnover was likely also increased. The dramatic mechanical and structural changes induced by training occurred independent of changes in cell density or tendon morphology. Finally, Achilles tendon calcification was significantly reduced following exercise. These results demonstrate that, in response to exercise, tendons from old animals are capable of replacing damaged and dysfunctional components of extracellular matrix with tissue that is mechanically and structurally comparable to adult tissue. © 2015 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 34:346–353, 2016.

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