Substratum-induced differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells reveals the coactivator YAP is a potent regulator of neuronal specification.
ABSTRACT: Physical stimuli can act in either a synergistic or antagonistic manner to regulate cell fate decisions, but it is less clear whether insoluble signals alone can direct human pluripotent stem (hPS) cell differentiation into specialized cell types. We previously reported that stiff materials promote nuclear localization of the Yes-associated protein (YAP) transcriptional coactivator and support long-term self-renewal of hPS cells. Here, we show that even in the presence of soluble pluripotency factors, compliant substrata inhibit the nuclear localization of YAP and promote highly efficient differentiation of hPS cells into postmitotic neurons. In the absence of neurogenic factors, the effective substrata produce neurons rapidly (2 wk) and more efficiently (>75%) than conventional differentiation methods. The neurons derived from substrate induction express mature markers and possess action potentials. The hPS differentiation observed on compliant surfaces could be recapitulated on stiff surfaces by adding small-molecule inhibitors of F-actin polymerization or by depleting YAP. These studies reveal that the matrix alone can mediate differentiation of hPS cells into a mature cell type, independent of soluble inductive factors. That mechanical cues can override soluble signals suggests that their contributions to early tissue development and lineage commitment are profound.
Project description:The Wnt/β-catenin pathway controls a variety of cellular behaviors, aberrant activation of which are associated with tumor progression in several types of cancer. The same cellular behaviors are also affected by the mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) substratum, which induces signaling through integrins and integrin-linked kinase (ILK). Here, we examined the role of substratum stiffness in the regulation of cell proliferation downstream of Wnt3a. We found that treatment with Wnt3a increased proliferation of cells cultured on stiff substrata, with compliances characteristic of breast tumors, but not of cells on soft substrata, with compliances comparable to that of normal mammary tissue. Depleting ILK rendered cells unresponsive to Wnt3a on both substrata. Ectopic expression of ILK permitted Wnt3a to induce proliferation of cells on both microenvironments, although proliferation on soft substrata remained lower than that on stiff substrata. We further showed that ILK regulates expression of the Wnt receptor frizzled-1 (Fzd1), suggesting the presence of a positive feedback loop between Wnt3a, ILK and Fzd1. These findings suggest that tissue mechanics regulates the cellular response to Wnt under physiological and pathological microenvironmental conditions.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Project description:The role of mechanical regulation in driving human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) differentiation has been minimally explored. Although endothelial cell (EC) fate from hiPSCs has been demonstrated using small molecules to drive mesoderm induction, the effects of substrate stiffness with regard to EC differentiation efficiency have yet to be elucidated. We hypothesized that substrate compliance can modulate mesoderm differentiation kinetics from hiPSCs and affect downstream EC commitment. To this end, we used polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-a transparent, biocompatible elastomeric material-as a substrate to study EC commitment of hiPSCs using a stepwise differentiation scheme. Using physiologically stiff (1.7 MPa) and soft (3 kPa) PDMS substrates, compared to polystyrene plates (3 GPa), we demonstrate that mechanical priming during mesoderm induction activates the Yes-associated protein and drives Wnt/?-catenin signaling. When mesoderm differentiation was induced on compliant PDMS substrates in both serum and serum-free E6 medium, mesodermal genetic signatures (<i>T</i>, <i>KDR</i>, <i>MESP-1</i>, <i>GATA-2</i>, and <i>SNAIL-1</i>) were enhanced. Furthermore, examination of EC fate following stiffness priming revealed that compliant substrates robustly improve EC commitment through VECad, CD31, vWF, and eNOS marker expression. Overall, we show that substrate compliance guides EC fate by enhancing mesoderm induction through Wnt activation without the addition of small molecules. These findings are the first to show that the mechanical context of the differentiation niche can be as potent as chemical cues in driving EC identity from hiPSCs.
Project description:The fate decisions of human pluripotent stem (hPS) cells are governed by soluble and insoluble signals from the microenvironment. Many hPS cell differentiation protocols use Matrigel, a complex and undefined substrate that engages multiple adhesion and signaling receptors. Using defined surfaces programmed to engage specific cell-surface ligands (i.e., glycosaminoglycans and integrins), the contribution of specific matrix signals can be dissected. For ectoderm and motor neuron differentiation, peptide-modified surfaces that can engage both glycosaminoglycans and integrins are effective. In contrast, surfaces that interact selectively with glycosaminoglycans are superior to Matrigel in promoting hPS cell differentiation to definitive endoderm and mesoderm. The modular surfaces were used to elucidate the signaling pathways underlying these differences. Matrigel promotes integrin signaling, which in turn inhibits mesendoderm differentiation. The data indicate that integrin-activating surfaces stimulate Akt signaling via integrin-linked kinase (ILK), which is antagonistic to endoderm differentiation. The ability to attribute cellular responses to specific interactions between the cell and the substrate offers new opportunities for revealing and controlling the pathways governing cell fate.
Project description:Rigidity of substrates plays an important role in stem cell fate. Studies are commonly carried out on isotropically stiff substrate or substrates with unidirectional stiffness gradients. However, many native tissues are anisotropically stiff and it is unknown whether controlled presentation of stiff and compliant material axes on the same substrate governs cytoskeletal and nuclear morphology, as well as stem cell differentiation. In this study, electrocompacted collagen sheets are stretched to varying degrees to tune the stiffness anisotropy (SA) in the range of 1 to 8, resulting in stiff and compliant material axes orthogonal to each other. The cytoskeletal aspect ratio increased with increasing SA by about fourfold. Such elongation was absent on cellulose acetate replicas of aligned collagen surfaces indicating that the elongation was not driven by surface topography. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) seeded on varying anisotropy sheets displayed a dose-dependent upregulation of tendon-related markers such as Mohawk and Scleraxis. After 21 d of culture, highly anisotropic sheets induced greater levels of production of type-I, type-III collagen, and thrombospondin-4. Therefore, SA has direct effects on MSC differentiation. These findings may also have ramifications of stem cell fate on other anisotropically stiff tissues, such as skeletal/cardiac muscles, ligaments, and bone.
Project description:This work reveals a set of surface topography parameters that are significant for algal attachment to natural rock substrata. Topography analysis of rock surfaces from a stream identifies three descriptive areal parameters (Smr, Sv, and Sa) that correlate with the presence of natural periphyton community. A method was developed and validated to reverse engineer and manufacture artificial substrata with topographic complexity defined by these parameters, using computational modeling and additive manufacturing. Results from colonization experiments with filamentous algae show statistically significant increases in early biomass accrual rates on substrata with higher values of Sa and Sv parameters and lower values of Smr parameter. These results suggest that manipulation of the level of roughness (peak-to-valley distance and material ratio above the mean) and the distribution of hill and dale sequences can control initial colonization locations and biomass accrual rates, presumably by enhancing growth and recruitment of cells from the overlying flow into protected refugia spaces. As such, these findings provide an approach for optimizing the design of substratum for increased early biomass productivity for attached growth algae cultivation systems.
Project description:Reaping the promise of human embryonic stem (hES) cells hinges on effective defined culture conditions. Efforts to identify chemically defined environments for hES cell propagation would benefit from understanding the relevant functional properties of the substratum. Biological materials are often employed as substrata, but their complexity obscures a molecular level analysis of their relevant attributes. Because the properties of hydrogels can be tuned and altered systematically, these materials can reveal the impact of substratum features on cell fate decisions. By tailoring the peptide displayed to cells and the substrate mechanical properties, a hydrogel was generated that binds hES cell surface glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and functions robustly in a defined culture medium to support long-term hES cell self-renewal. A key attribute of the successful GAG-binding hydrogels is their stiffness. Only stiff substrates maintain hES cell proliferation and pluripotency. These findings indicate that cells can respond to mechanical information transmitted via GAG engagement. Additionally, we found that the stiff matrices afforded activation of the paralogous proteins YAP/TAZ, which are transcriptional coactivators implicated in mechanosensing and hES cell pluripotency. These results indicate that the substratum mechanics can be tuned to activate specific pathways linked to pluripotency. Because several different hES and induced pluripotent stem cell lines respond similarly, we conclude that stiff substrata are more effective for the long-term propagation of human pluripotent stem cells.
Project description:Bacterial biofilms play an important role in chronic infections due to high-level tolerance to antibiotics. Thus, it is important to eradicate bacterial cells that are attached to implanted medical devices of different materials. Phagocytosis is a key process of the innate immunity to eliminate invading pathogens. Previous research demonstrated that the efficiency of phagocytosis is affected by the aspect ratio of polymer beads. Recently, we reported that the stiffness of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) influences Escherichia coli biofilm formation and the biofilm cells on stiff (5:1) PDMS are 46.2% shorter than those on soft (40:1) PDMS. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that E. coli cells attached on stiff PDMS can be more effectively removed via phagocytosis. This hypothesis was tested in the present study using viability assays, flow cytometry, and cell tracking. The results revealed that shorter E. coli cells detached from stiff PDMS were easier to be phagocytized than the longer cells from soft PDMS surfaces. Furthermore, macrophage cells were found to be more motile on stiff PDMS surfaces and more effective at phagocytosis of E. coli cells attached on these surfaces. These results may help the design of better biomaterials to reduce fouling and associated infections.
Project description:Leveraging the extraordinary potential of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) requires an understanding of the mechanisms underlying cell-fate decisions. Substrate elasticity can induce differentiation by signaling through the transcriptional coactivator Yes-associated protein (YAP). Cells cultured on surfaces mimicking brain elasticity exclude YAP from their nuclei and differentiate to neurons. How YAP localization is controlled during neural differentiation has been unclear. We employed CRISPR/Cas9 to tag endogenous YAP in hPSCs and used this fusion protein to identify YAP's interaction partners. This engineered cell line revealed that neural differentiation promotes a change in YAP interactors, including a dramatic increase in angiomotin (AMOT) interaction with YAP. AMOT regulates YAP localization during differentiation. AMOT expression increases during neural differentiation and leads to YAP nuclear exclusion. Our findings that AMOT-dependent regulation of YAP helps direct hPSC fate provide insight into the molecular mechanisms by which the microenvironment can induce neural differentiation.
Project description:Pathological fibrosis is driven by a feedback loop in which the fibrotic extracellular matrix is both a cause and consequence of fibroblast activation. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this process remain poorly understood. Here we identify yes-associated protein (YAP) (homolog of drosophila Yki) and transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ) (also known as Wwtr1), transcriptional effectors of the Hippo pathway, as key matrix stiffness-regulated coordinators of fibroblast activation and matrix synthesis. YAP and TAZ are prominently expressed in fibrotic but not healthy lung tissue, with particularly pronounced nuclear expression of TAZ in spindle-shaped fibroblastic cells. In culture, both YAP and TAZ accumulate in the nuclei of fibroblasts grown on pathologically stiff matrices but not physiologically compliant matrices. Knockdown of YAP and TAZ together in vitro attenuates key fibroblast functions, including matrix synthesis, contraction, and proliferation, and does so exclusively on pathologically stiff matrices. Profibrotic effects of YAP and TAZ operate, in part, through their transcriptional target plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, which is regulated by matrix stiffness independent of transforming growth factor-? signaling. Immortalized fibroblasts conditionally expressing active YAP or TAZ mutant proteins overcome soft matrix limitations on growth and promote fibrosis when adoptively transferred to the murine lung, demonstrating the ability of fibroblast YAP/TAZ activation to drive a profibrotic response in vivo. Together, these results identify YAP and TAZ as mechanoactivated coordinators of the matrix-driven feedback loop that amplifies and sustains fibrosis.
Project description:It is increasingly appreciated that since cell and tissue functions are regulated by chemomechanical stimuli, precise control over such stimuli will improve the functionality of tissue models. However, due to the inherent difficulty in decoupling these cues as presented by extracellular materials, few studies have explored the independent modulation of biochemical and mechanical stimuli towards the manipulation of sustained cellular processes. Here, we demonstrate that both mechanical compliance and ligand presentation of synthetic, weak polyelectrolyte multilayers (PEMs) can be tuned independently to influence the adhesion and liver-specific functions of primary rat hepatocytes over extended in vitro culture (two weeks). These synthetic PEMs exhibited elastic moduli E ranging over 200kPa<E<142MPa, as much as one thousand-fold more compliant than tissue-culture polystyrene (E approximately 2.5GPa). The most compliant of these PEM substrata promoted hepatocyte adhesion and spheroidal morphology. Subsequent modification of PEMs with type I collagen and the proteoglycan decorin did not alter substrata compliance, but enhanced the retention of spheroids on surfaces and stabilized hepatic functions (albumin and urea secretion, CYP450 detoxification activity). Decorin exhibited unique compliance-mediated effects on hepatic functions, down-regulating the hepatocyte phenotype when presented on highly compliant substrata while up-regulating hepatocyte functions when presented on increasingly stiffer substrata. These results show that phenotypic functions of liver models can be modulated by leveraging synthetic polymers to study and optimize the interplay of biochemical and mechanical cues at the cell-material interface. More broadly, these results suggest an enabling approach for the systematic design of functional tissue models applied to drug screening, cell-based therapies and fundamental studies in development, physiology and disease.