Heterotopic ossification (HO) is a significant clinical problem with incompletely resolved mechanisms. Here, the secreted metalloproteinases ADAMTS7 and ADAMTS12 are shown to comprise a unique proteoglycan class that protects against a tendency toward HO in mouse hindlimb tendons, menisci, and ligaments. Adamts7 and Adamts12 mRNAs were sparsely expressed in murine forelimbs but strongly coexpressed in hindlimb tendons, skeletal muscle, ligaments, and meniscal fibrocartilage. Adamts7–/– Adamts12–/– mice, but not corresponding single-gene mutants, which demonstrated compensatory upregulation of the intact homolog mRNA, developed progressive HO in these tissues after 4 months of age. Adamts7–/– Adamts12–/– tendons had abnormal collagen fibrils, accompanied by reduced levels of the small leucine-rich proteoglycans (SLRPs) biglycan, fibromodulin, and decorin, which regulate collagen fibrillogenesis. Bgn–/0 Fmod–/– mice are known to have a strikingly similar hindlimb HO to that of Adamts7–/– Adamts12–/– mice, implicating fibromodulin and biglycan reduction as a likely mechanism underlying HO in Adamts7–/– Adamts12–/– mice. Interestingly, degenerated human biceps tendons had reduced ADAMTS7 mRNA compared with healthy biceps tendons, which expressed both ADAMTS7 and ADAMTS12. These results suggest that ADAMTS7 and ADAMTS12 drive an innate pathway protective against hindlimb HO in mice and may be essential for human tendon health.
Timothy J. Mead, Daniel R. McCulloch, Jason C. Ho, Yaoyao Du, Sheila M. Adams, David E. Birk, Suneel S. Apte