Enhancing structural support of the dermal microenvironment activates fibroblasts, endothelial cells, and keratinocytes in aged human skin in vivo.
ABSTRACT: The dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) provides strength and resiliency to skin. The ECM consists mostly of type I collagen fibrils, which are produced by fibroblasts. Binding of fibroblasts to collagen fibrils generates mechanical forces, which regulate cellular morphology and function. With aging, collagen fragmentation reduces fibroblast-ECM binding and mechanical forces, resulting in fibroblast shrinkage and reduced function, including collagen production. Here, we report that these age-related alterations are largely reversed by enhancing the structural support of the ECM. Injection of dermal filler, cross-linked hyaluronic acid, into the skin of individuals over 70 years of age stimulates fibroblasts to produce type I collagen. This stimulation is associated with localized increase in mechanical forces, indicated by fibroblast elongation/spreading, and mediated by upregulation of type II TGF-? receptor and connective tissue growth factor. Interestingly, enhanced mechanical support of the ECM also stimulates fibroblast proliferation, expands vasculature, and increases epidermal thickness. Consistent with our observations in human skin, injection of filler into dermal equivalent cultures causes elongation of fibroblasts, coupled with type I collagen synthesis, which is dependent on the TGF-? signaling pathway. Thus, fibroblasts in aged human skin retain their capacity for functional activation, which is restored by enhancing structural support of the ECM.
Project description:The dermal compartment of skin is primarily composed of collagen-rich extracellular matrix (ECM), which is produced by dermal fibroblasts. In Young skin, fibroblasts attach to the ECM through integrins. During ageing, fragmentation of the dermal ECM limits fibroblast attachment. This reduced attachment is associated with decreased collagen production, a major cause of skin thinning and fragility, in the elderly. Fibroblast attachment promotes assembly of the cellular actin cytoskeleton, which generates mechanical forces needed for structural support. The mechanism(s) linking reduced assembly of the actin cytoskeleton to decreased collagen production remains unclear. Here, we report that disassembly of the actin cytoskeleton results in impairment of TGF-? pathway, which controls collagen production, in dermal fibroblasts. Cytoskeleton disassembly rapidly down-regulates TGF-? type II receptor (T?RII) levels. This down-regulation leads to reduced activation of downstream effectors Smad2/Smad3 and CCN2, resulting in decreased collagen production. These responses are fully reversible; restoration of actin cytoskeleton assembly up-regulates T?RII, Smad2/Smad3, CCN2 and collagen expression. Finally, actin cytoskeleton-dependent reduction of T?RII is mediated by induction of microRNA 21, a potent inhibitor of T?RII protein expression. Our findings reveal a novel mechanism that links actin cytoskeleton assembly and collagen expression in dermal fibroblasts. This mechanism likely contributes to loss of T?RII and collagen production, which are observed in aged human skin.
Project description:The structural integrity of human skin is largely dependent on the quality of the dermal extracellular matrix (ECM), which is produced, organized, and maintained by dermal fibroblasts. Normally, fibroblasts attach to the ECM and thereby achieve stretched, elongated morphology. A prominent characteristic of dermal fibroblasts in aged skin is reduced size, with decreased elongation and a more rounded, collapsed morphology. Here, we show that reduced size of fibroblasts in mechanically unrestrained three-dimensional collagen lattices coincides with reduced mechanical force, measured by atomic force microscopy. Reduced size/mechanical force specifically down-regulates TGF-? type II receptor (T?RII) and thus impairs TGF-?/Smad signaling pathway. Both T?RII mRNA and protein were decreased, resulting in 90% loss of TGF-? binding to fibroblasts. Down-regulation of T?RII was associated with significantly decreased phosphorylation, DNA-binding, and transcriptional activity of its key downstream effector Smad3 and reduced expression of Smad3-regulated essential ECM components type I collagen, fibronectin, and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2). Restoration of T?RII significantly increased TGF-? induction of Smad3 phosphorylation and stimulated expression of ECM components. Reduced expression of T?RII and ECM components in response to reduced fibroblast size/mechanical force was fully reversed by restoring size/mechanical force. Reduced fibroblast size was associated with reduced expression of T?RII and diminished ECM production, in aged human skin. Taken together, these data reveal a novel mechanism that provides a molecular basis for loss of dermal ECM, with concomitant increased fragility, which is a prominent feature of human skin aging.
Project description:Aged human skin is fragile because of fragmentation and loss of type I collagen fibrils, which confer strength and resiliency. We report here that dermal fibroblasts express increased levels of collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases-1 (MMP-1) in aged (>80 years old) compared with young (21 to 30 years old) human skin in vivo. Transcription factor AP-1 and alpha2beta1 integrin, which are key regulators of MMP-1 expression, are also elevated in fibroblasts in aged human skin in vivo. MMP-1 treatment of young skin in organ culture causes fragmentation of collagen fibrils and reduces fibroblast stretch, consistent with reduced mechanical tension, as observed in aged human skin. Limited fragmentation of three-dimensional collagen lattices with exogenous MMP-1 also reduces fibroblast stretch and mechanical tension. Furthermore, fibroblasts cultured in fragmented collagen lattices express elevated levels of MMP-1, AP-1, and alpha2beta1 integrin. Importantly, culture in fragmented collagen raises intracellular oxidant levels and treatment with antioxidant MitoQ(10) significantly reduces MMP-1 expression. These data identify positive feedback regulation that couples age-dependent MMP-1-catalyzed collagen fragmentation and oxidative stress. We propose that this self perpetuating cycle promotes human skin aging. These data extend the current understanding of the oxidative theory of aging beyond a cellular-centric view to include extracellular matrix and the critical role that connective tissue microenvironment plays in the biology of aging.
Project description:Increased expression of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and reduced production of type I collagen by dermal fibroblasts are prominent features of aged human skin. We have proposed that MMP-1-mediated collagen fibril fragmentation is a key driver of age-related decline of skin function. To investigate this hypothesis, we constructed, characterized, and expressed constitutively active MMP-1 mutant (MMP-1 V94G) in adult human skin in organ culture and fibroblasts in three-dimensional collagen lattice cultures. Expression of MMP-1 V94G in young skin in organ culture caused fragmentation and ultrastructural alterations of collagen fibrils similar to those observed in aged human skin in vivo. Expression of MMP-1 V94G in dermal fibroblasts cultured in three-dimensional collagen lattices caused substantial collagen fragmentation, which was markedly reduced by MMP-1 siRNA-mediated knockdown or MMP inhibitor MMI270. Importantly, fibroblasts cultured in MMP-1 V94G-fragmented collagen lattices displayed many alterations observed in fibroblasts in aged human skin, including reduced cytoplasmic area, disassembled actin cytoskeleton, impaired TGF-? pathway, and reduced collagen production. These results support the concept that MMP-1-mediated fragmentation of dermal collagen fibrils alters the morphology and function of dermal fibroblasts and provide a foundation for understanding specific mechanisms that link collagen fibril fragmentation to age-related decline of fibroblast function.
Project description:Here, we report on the first systematic long-term study of fibroblast therapy in a mouse model for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), a severe skin-blistering disorder caused by loss-of-function of collagen VII. Intradermal injection of wild-type (WT) fibroblasts in >50 mice increased the collagen VII content at the dermal-epidermal junction 3.5- to 4.7-fold. Although the active biosynthesis lasted <28 days, collagen VII remained stable and dramatically improved skin integrity and resistance to mechanical forces for at least 100 days, as measured with a digital 3D-skin sensor for shear forces. Experiments using species-specific antibodies, collagen VII-deficient fibroblasts, gene expression analyses, and cytokine arrays demonstrated that the injected fibroblasts are the major source of newly deposited collagen VII. Apart from transitory mild inflammation, no adverse effects were observed. The cells remained within an area <or=10 mm of the injection site, and did not proliferate, form tumors, or cause fibrosis. Instead, they became gradually apoptotic within 28 days. These data on partial restoration of collagen VII in the skin demonstrate the excellent ratio of clinical effects to biological parameters, support suitability of fibroblast-based therapy approaches for RDEB, and, as a preclinical test, pave way to human clinical trials.
Project description:Mowat-Wilson syndrome (MOWS) is a congenital disease caused by de novo heterozygous loss of function mutations or deletions of the ZEB2 gene. MOWS patients show multiple anomalies including intellectual disability, a distinctive facial appearance, microcephaly, congenital heart defects and Hirschsprung disease. However, the skin manifestation(s) of patients with MOWS has not been documented in detail. Here, we recognized that MOWS patients exhibit many Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)-like symptoms, such as skin hyperextensibility, atrophic scars and joint hypermobility. MOWS patients showed a thinner dermal thickness and electron microscopy revealed miniaturized collagen fibrils. Notably, mice with a mesoderm-specific deletion of the Zeb2 gene (Zeb2-cKO) demonstrated redundant skin, dermal hypoplasia and miniaturized collagen fibrils similar to those of MOWS patients. Dermal fibroblasts derived from Zeb2-cKO mice showed a decreased expression of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules, such as collagens, whereas molecules involved in degradation of the ECM, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), were up-regulated. Furthermore, bleomycin-induced skin fibrosis was attenuated in Zeb2-cKO mice. We conclude that MOWS patients exhibit an EDS-like skin phenotype through alterations of collagen fibrillogenesis due to ZEB2 mutations or deletions.
Project description:The tensile and scaffolding properties of skin rely on the complex extracellular matrix (ECM) that surrounds cells, vasculature, nerves, and adnexus structures and supports the epidermis. In the skin, collagen I fibrils are the major structural component of the dermal ECM, decorated by proteoglycans and by fibril-associated collagens with interrupted triple helices such as collagens XII and XIV. Here we show that the cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP), an abundant component of cartilage ECM, is expressed in healthy human skin. COMP expression is detected in the dermal compartment of skin and in cultured fibroblasts, whereas epidermis and HaCaT cells are negative. In addition to binding collagen I, COMP binds to collagens XII and XIV via their C-terminal collagenous domains. All three proteins codistribute in a characteristic narrow zone in the superficial papillary dermis of healthy human skin. Ultrastructural analysis by immunogold labeling confirmed colocalization and further revealed the presence of COMP along with collagens XII and XIV in anchoring plaques. On the basis of these observations, we postulate that COMP functions as an adapter protein in human skin, similar to its function in cartilage ECM, by organizing collagen I fibrils into a suprastructure, mainly in the vicinity of anchoring plaques that stabilize the cohesion between the upper dermis and the basement membrane zone.
Project description:Despite the crucial role of extracellular matrix (ECM) in directing cell fate in healthy and diseased tissues--particularly in development, wound healing, tissue regeneration and cancer--the mechanisms that direct the assembly and regulate hierarchical architectures of ECM are poorly understood. Collagen I matrix assembly in vivo requires active fibronectin (Fn) fibrillogenesis by cells. Here we exploit Fn-FRET probes as mechanical strain sensors and demonstrate that collagen I fibres preferentially co-localize with more-relaxed Fn fibrils in the ECM of fibroblasts in cell culture. Fibre stretch-assay studies reveal that collagen I's Fn-binding domain is responsible for the mechano-regulated interaction. Furthermore, we show that Fn-collagen interactions are reciprocal: relaxed Fn fibrils act as multivalent templates for collagen assembly, but once assembled, collagen fibres shield Fn fibres from being stretched by cellular traction forces. Thus, in addition to the well-recognized, force-regulated, cell-matrix interactions, forces also tune the interactions between different structural ECM components.
Project description:Fibroblasts are the major mesenchymal cell type in connective tissue and deposit the collagen and elastic fibres of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Even within a single tissue, fibroblasts exhibit considerable functional diversity, but it is not known whether this reflects the existence of a differentiation hierarchy or is a response to different environmental factors. Here we show, using transplantation assays and lineage tracing in mice, that the fibroblasts of skin connective tissue arise from two distinct lineages. One forms the upper dermis, including the dermal papilla that regulates hair growth and the arrector pili muscle, which controls piloerection. The other forms the lower dermis, including the reticular fibroblasts that synthesize the bulk of the fibrillar ECM, and the preadipocytes and adipocytes of the hypodermis. The upper lineage is required for hair follicle formation. In wounded adult skin, the initial wave of dermal repair is mediated by the lower lineage and upper dermal fibroblasts are recruited only during re-epithelialization. Epidermal ?-catenin activation stimulates the expansion of the upper dermal lineage, rendering wounds permissive for hair follicle formation. Our findings explain why wounding is linked to formation of ECM-rich scar tissue that lacks hair follicles. They also form a platform for discovering fibroblast lineages in other tissues and for examining fibroblast changes in ageing and disease.
Project description:Skin is one of the most accessible tissues for experimental biomedical sciences, and cultured skin cells represent one of the longest-running clinical applications of stem cell therapy. However, culture-generated skin mimetic multicellular structures are still limited in their application by the time taken to develop these constructs in vitro and by their incomplete differentiation. The development of a functional dermal-epidermal junction (DEJ) is one of the most sought after aspects of cultured skin, and one of the hardest to recreate in vitro. At the DEJ, dermal fibroblasts and epidermal keratinocytes interact to form an interlinked basement membrane of extracellular matrix (ECM), which forms as a concerted action of both keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Successful formation of this basement membrane is essential for take and stability of cultured skin autografts. We studied interactive matrix production by monocultures and cocultures of primary human keratinocytes and fibroblasts in an attempt to improve the efficiency of basement membrane production in culture using mixed macromolecular crowding (mMMC); resulting ECM were enriched with the deposition of collagens I, IV, fibronectin, and laminin 332 (laminin 5) and also in collagen VII, the anchoring fibril component. Our in vitro data point to fibroblasts, rather than keratinocytes, as the major cellular contributors of the DEJ. Not only did we find more collagen VII production and deposition by fibroblasts in comparison to keratinocytes, but also observed that decellularized fibroblast ECM stimulated the production and deposition of collagen VII by keratinocytes, over and above that of keratinocyte monocultures. In confrontation cultures, keratinocytes and fibroblasts showed spontaneous segregation and demarcation of cell boundaries by DEJ protein deposition. Finally, mMMC was used in a classical organotypic coculture protocol with keratinocytes seeded over fibroblast-containing collagen gels. Applied during the submerged phase, mMMC was sufficient to accelerate the emergence of collagen VII along the de novo DEJ, together with stronger transglutaminase activity in the neoepidermis. Our findings corroborate the role of fibroblasts as important players in producing collagen VII and inducing collagen VII deposition in the DEJ, and that macromolecular crowding leads to organotypic epidermal differentiation in tissue culture in a significantly condensed time frame.