The enthesis is a mineralized fibrocartilage transition that attaches tendon to bone and is vital for musculoskeletal function. Despite recent studies demonstrating the necessity of muscle loading for enthesis formation, the mechanisms that regulate enthesis formation and mechanoresponsiveness remain unclear. Therefore, the current study investigated the role of the gap junction protein connexin 43 in these processes by deleting Gja1 (the Cx43 gene) in the tendon and enthesis. Compared with their wild‐type (WT) counterparts, mice lacking Cx43 showed disrupted entheseal cell alignment, reduced mineralized fibrocartilage, and impaired biomechanical properties of the supraspinatus tendon entheses during postnatal development. Cx43‐deficient mice also exhibited reduced ability to complete a treadmill running protocol but no apparent deficits in daily activity, metabolic indexes, shoulder muscle size, grip strength, and major trabecular bone properties of the adjacent humeral head. To examine enthesis mechanoresponsiveness, young adult mice were subjected to modest treadmill exercise. Gja1 deficiency in the tendon and enthesis reduced entheseal anabolic responses to treadmill exercise: WT mice had increased expression of Sox9, Ihh, and Gli1 and increased Brdu incorporation, whereas Cx43‐deficient mice showed no changes or decreased levels with exercise. Collectively, the results demonstrated an essential role for Cx43 in postnatal tendon enthesis formation, function, and response to loading; results further provided evidence implicating a link between Cx43 function and the hedgehog signaling pathway.
CONNEXIN 43; ENTHESIS; GAP JUNCTION; GLI1; TENDON