BACKGROUND: Meniscal injury is a common cause of lameness in the dog. Tissue engineered bioscaffolds may be a treatment option for meniscal incompetency, and ideally would possess meniscus- like extracellular matrix (ECM) and withstand meniscal tensile hoop strains. Synovium may be a useful cell source for meniscal tissue engineering because of its natural role in meniscal deficiency and its in vitro chondrogenic potential. The objective of this study is to compare meniscal -like extracellular matrix content of hyperconfluent synoviocyte cell sheets ("HCS") and hyperconfluent synoviocyte sheets which have been tensioned over wire hoops (tensioned synoviocyte bioscaffolds, "TSB") and cultured for 1 month. RESULTS: Long term culture with tension resulted in higher GAG concentration, higher chondrogenic index, higher collagen concentration, and type II collagen immunoreactivity in TSB versus HCS. Both HCS and TSB were immunoreactive for type I collagen, however, HCS had mild, patchy intracellular immunoreactivity while TSB had diffuse moderate immunoreactivity over the entire bisocaffold. The tissue architecture was markedly different between TSB and HCS, with TSB containing collagen organized in bands and sheets. Both HCS and TSB expressed alpha smooth muscle actin and displayed active contractile behavior. Double stranded DNA content was not different between TSB and HCS, while cell viability decreased in TSB. CONCLUSIONS: Long term culture of synoviocytes with tension improved meniscal- like extra cellular matrix components, specifically, the total collagen content, including type I and II collagen, and increased GAG content relative to HCS. Future research is warranted to investigate the potential of TSB for meniscal tissue engineering.