Mitochondrial function following rotator cuff tendon injury (RCI) influences the tendon healing. We examined the mitochondrial morphology and function under hypoxia in the shoulder tendon tissue from surgically-induced tenotomy-RCI rat model and cultured swine tenocytes. The tendon tissue was collected post-injury on 3–5 (Group-A), 10–12 (Group-B), and 22–24 (Group-C), days and the corresponding contralateral tendons were used as control for each group. There was higher protein expression of citrate synthase (P < 0.0001) [10.22 MFI (mean fluorescent intensity)] and complex-1 (P = 0.0008) (7.86 MFI) in Group-A and Group-B that decreased in Group-C [(P = 0.0201) (5.78 MFI and (P = 0.7915) (2.32 MFI), respectively] compared to control tendons. The ratio of BAX:Bcl2 (Bcl2 associated x protein:B cell lymphoma 2) in RCI tendons increased by 50.5% (Group-A) and 68.4% (Group-B) and decreased by 25.8% (Group-C) compared to normoxic controls. Hypoxia increased β-tubulin expression (P = 0067) and reduced PGC1-α (P = 0412) expression in the isolated swine tenocytes with no effect on the protein expression of Complex-1 (P = 7409) and citrate synthase (P = 0.3290). Also, the hypoxic tenocytes exhibited about 4-fold increase in mitochondrial superoxide (P < 0.0001), altered morphology and mitochondrial pore integrity, and increase in mitochondrial density compared to normoxic controls. These findings suggest the critical role of mitochondria in the RCI healing response.
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