Bone morphogenetic protein 2 improves patellar tendon healing by promoting migration and proliferation of tenocytes

Zhen Li, Xiao Tao Shen, Liang Cao, Zi Qiang Yuan, Si Yun Chen, Xin Zheng, Mei Kuen Tang, Kenneth K. Lee, Dong Qing Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The repair of injured tendons remains a great challenge because of the poor intrinsic healing capacity of tendons. In this study, we examined the spatiotemporal expression pattern of the bone morphogenetic protein 2 (bmp-2) gene in normal and experimentally injured rat patellar tendons. We also investigated the ability of exogenously applied BMP-2 to promote patellar tendon healing. In situ hybridization with bmp-2 and alk-6 (bmp-2 receptor) antisense riboprobes revealed that both genes were normally expressed at low levels in intact rat tendons. However, bmp-2 expression was significantly upregulated in tenocytes found in the wound site at 7 d and later following tendon injury. In addition, it was found that bmp-2 was expressed in cultured patellar tenocytes. Application of exogenous BMP-2 to the tendon wound site significantly enhanced tendon repair. Moreover, in vitro and in vivo studies further demonstrated that BMP-2 enhanced tenocyte proliferation and migration to the wound site. The detectable amount of BMP-2 in normal tendons suggests that a basal level of bmp-2 expression was likely present to maintain the normal functions of the patellar tendon. Injury to the tendon induced increased bmp-2 expression intrinsically, but the expression level was insufficient for proper tendon repair. Our findings indicate that it is possible to significantly improve tendon healing by applying exogenous BMP-2 to the wound site, inferring that this protein could be developed as a potential therapeutic reagent for the treatment of damaged tendons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1361-1369
Number of pages9
JournalChinese Science Bulletin
Issue number13
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • BMP-2
  • tendon healing
  • tenocyte proliferation and migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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