Specialization of tendon mechanical properties results from interfascicular differences.
3108 - 3117
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Tendons transfer force from muscle to bone. Specific tendons, including the equine superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT), also store and return energy. For efficient function, energy-storing tendons need to be more extensible than positional tendons such as the common digital extensor tendon (CDET), and when tested in vitro have a lower modulus and failure stress, but a higher failure strain. It is not known how differences in matrix organization contribute to distinct mechanical properties in functionally different tendons. We investigated the properties of whole tendons, tendon fascicles and the fascicular interface in the high-strain energy-storing SDFT and low-strain positional CDET. Fascicles failed at lower stresses and strains than tendons. The SDFT was more extensible than the CDET, but SDFT fascicles failed at lower strains than CDET fascicles, resulting in large differences between tendon and fascicle failure strain in the SDFT. At physiological loads, the stiffness at the fascicular interface was lower in the SDFT samples, enabling a greater fascicle sliding that could account for differences in tendon and fascicle failure strain. Sliding between fascicles prior to fascicle extension in the SDFT may allow the large extensions required in energy-storing tendons while protecting fascicles from damage.