Shear-stress sensing by PIEZO1 regulates tendon stiffness in rodents and influences jumping performance in humans

Fabian S. Passini, Patrick K. Jaeger, Aiman S. Saab, Shawn Hanlon, Nicole A. Chittim, Matthias J. Arlt, Kim David Ferrari, Dominik Haenni, Sebastiano Caprara, Maja Bollhalder, Barbara Niederöst, Aron N. Horvath, Tobias Götschi, Shang Ma, Bettina Passini-Tall, Sandro F. Fucentese, Ulrich Blache, Unai Silván, Bruno Weber, Karin Grävare SilbernagelJess G. Snedeker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Athletic performance relies on tendons, which enable movement by transferring forces from muscles to the skeleton. Yet, how load-bearing structures in tendons sense and adapt to physical demands is not understood. Here, by performing calcium (Ca2+) imaging in mechanically loaded tendon explants from rats and in primary tendon cells from rats and humans, we show that tenocytes detect mechanical forces through the mechanosensitive ion channel PIEZO1, which senses shear stresses induced by collagen-fibre sliding. Through tenocyte-targeted loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments in rodents, we show that reduced PIEZO1 activity decreased tendon stiffness and that elevated PIEZO1 mechanosignalling increased tendon stiffness and strength, seemingly through upregulated collagen cross-linking. We also show that humans carrying the PIEZO1 E756del gain-of-function mutation display a 13.2% average increase in normalized jumping height, presumably due to a higher rate of force generation or to the release of a larger amount of stored elastic energy. Further understanding of the PIEZO1-mediated mechanoregulation of tendon stiffness should aid research on musculoskeletal medicine and on sports performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1457-1471
Number of pages15
JournalNature Biomedical Engineering
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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