Trauma by suturing tendon form areas devoid of cells termed "acellular zones" in the matrix. This study aimed to characterise the cellular insult of suturing and acellular zone formation in mouse tendon. Acellular zone formation was evaluated using single grasping sutures placed using flexor tendons with time lapse cell viability imaging for a period of 12 h. Both tension and injury were required to induce cell death and cell movement in the formation of the acellular zone. DNA fragmentation studies and transmission electron microscopy indicated that cells necrosed. Parallel in vivo studies showed that cell-to-cell contacts were disrupted following grasping by the suture in tensioned tendon. Without tension, cell death was lessened and cell-to-cell contacts remained intact. Quantitative immunohistochemistry and 3D cellular profile mapping of wound healing markers over a one year time course showed that acellular zones arise rapidly and showed no evidence of healing whilst the wound healing response occurred in the surrounding tissues. The acellular zones were also evident in a standard modified "Kessler" clinical repair. In conclusion, the suture repair of injured tendons produces acellular zones, which may potentially cause early tendon failure. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.