Cellular and Molecular Biology


The cellular matrix: a feature of tensile bearing dense soft connective tissues

I.K. Lo, S. Chi, T. Ivie, C.B. Frank and J.B. Rattner

Joint Injury and Arthritis Research Group, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Offprint requests to: Dr. Jerome B. Rattner, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Calgary, 3300 Hospital Drive, NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T3B 5B7. Fax: (403)-283-8737. e-mail: rattner@ucalgary.ca


Summary. The term connective tissue encompasses a diverse group of tissues that reside in different environments and must support a spectrum of mechanical functions. Although the extracellular matrix of these tissues is well described, the cellular architecture of these tissues and its relationship to tissue function has only recently become the focus of study. It now appears that tensile-bearing dense connective tissues may be a specific class of connective tissues that display a common cellular organization characterized by fusiform cells with cytoplasmic projections and gap junctions. These cells with their cellular projections are organised into a complex 3-dimensional network leading to a physically, chemically and electrically connected cellular matrix. The cellular matrix may play essential roles in extracellular matrix formation, maintenance and remodelling, mechanotransduction and during injury and healing. Thus, it is likely that it is the interaction of both the extracellular matrix and cellular matrix that provides the basis for tissue function. Restoration of both these matrices, as well as their interaction must be the goal of strategies to repair these connective tissues damaged by either injury or disease. Histol. Histopathol. 17, 523-537 (2002)

Key words: Tendon, Ligament, Meniscus, Intervertebral disc, Healing, Cytoarchitecture

DOI: 10.14670/HH-17.523