Mechanotransduction Dynamics at the Cell-Matrix Interface.
ABSTRACT: The ability of cells to sense and respond to mechanical cues from the surrounding environment has been implicated as a key regulator of cell differentiation, migration, and proliferation. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is an oft-overlooked component of the interface between cells and their surroundings. Cells assemble soluble ECM proteins into insoluble fibrils with unique mechanical properties that can alter the mechanical cues a cell receives. In this study, we construct a model that predicts the dynamics of cellular traction force generation and subsequent assembly of fibrils of the ECM protein fibronectin (FN). FN fibrils are the primary component in primordial ECM and, as such, FN assembly is a critical component in the cellular mechanical response. The model consists of a network of Hookean springs, each representing an extensible domain within an assembling FN fibril. As actomyosin forces stretch the spring network, simulations predict the resulting traction force and FN fibril formation. The model accurately predicts FN fibril morphometry and demonstrates a mechanism by which FN fibril assembly regulates traction force dynamics in response to mechanical stimuli and varying surrounding substrate stiffness.
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:Cells respond to mechanical cues from the substrate to which they are attached. These mechanical cues drive cell migration, proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Previous studies have highlighted three specific mechanisms through which substrate stiffness directly alters cell function: increasing stiffness drives (1) larger contractile forces; (2) increased cell spreading and size; and (3) altered nuclear deformation. While studies have shown that substrate mechanics are an important cue, the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) has largely been ignored. The ECM is a crucial component of the mechanosensing system for two reasons: (1) many ECM fibrils are assembled by application of cell-generated forces, and (2) ECM proteins have unique mechanical properties that will undoubtedly alter the local stiffness sensed by a cell. We specifically focused on the role of the ECM protein fibronectin (FN), which plays a critical role in de novo tissue production. In this study, we first measured the effects of substrate stiffness on human embryonic fibroblasts by plating cells onto microfabricated pillar arrays (MPAs) of varying stiffness. Cells responded to increasing substrate stiffness by generating larger forces, spreading to larger sizes, and altering nuclear geometry. These cells also assembled FN fibrils across all stiffnesses, with optimal assembly occurring at approximately 6 kPa. We then inhibited FN assembly, which resulted in dramatic reductions in contractile force generation, cell spreading, and nuclear geometry across all stiffnesses. These findings suggest that FN fibrils play a critical role in facilitating cellular responses to substrate stiffness.
Project description:Integrin-based focal adhesions (FA) transmit anchorage and traction forces between the cell and the extracellular matrix (ECM). To gain further insight into the physical parameters of the ECM that control FA assembly and force transduction in non-migrating cells, we used fibronectin (FN) nanopatterning within a cell adhesion-resistant background to establish the threshold area of ECM ligand required for stable FA assembly and force transduction. Integrin-FN clustering and adhesive force were strongly modulated by the geometry of the nanoscale adhesive area. Individual nanoisland area, not the number of nanoislands or total adhesive area, controlled integrin-FN clustering and adhesion strength. Importantly, below an area threshold (0.11 µm(2)), very few integrin-FN clusters and negligible adhesive forces were generated. We then asked whether this adhesive area threshold could be modulated by intracellular pathways known to influence either adhesive force, cytoskeletal tension, or the structural link between the two. Expression of talin- or vinculin-head domains that increase integrin activation or clustering overcame this nanolimit for stable integrin-FN clustering and increased adhesive force. Inhibition of myosin contractility in cells expressing a vinculin mutant that enhances cytoskeleton-integrin coupling also restored integrin-FN clustering below the nanolimit. We conclude that the minimum area of integrin-FN clusters required for stable assembly of nanoscale FA and adhesive force transduction is not a constant; rather it has a dynamic threshold that results from an equilibrium between pathways controlling adhesive force, cytoskeletal tension, and the structural linkage that transmits these forces, allowing the balance to be tipped by factors that regulate these mechanical parameters.
Project description:Extracellular matrix (ECM) composition and structural integrity is one of many factors that influence cellular differentiation. Fibronectin (FN) which is in many tissues the most abundant ECM protein forms a unique fibrillary network. FN homes several binding sites for sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG), such as heparin (Hep), which was previously shown to influence FN conformation and protein binding. Synthetically sulfated hyaluronan derivatives (sHA) can serve as model molecules with a well characterized sulfation pattern to study sGAG-FN interaction. Here is shown that the low-sulfated sHA (sHA1) interacts with FN and influences fibril assembly. The interaction of FN fibrils with sHA1 and Hep, but not with non-sulfated HA was visualized by immunofluorescent co-staining. FRET analysis of FN confirmed the presence of more extended fibrils in human bone marrow stromal cells (hBMSC)-derived ECM in response to sHA1 and Hep. Although both sHA1 and Hep affected FN conformation, exclusively sHA1 increased FN protein level and led to thinner fibrils. Further, only sHA1 had a pro-osteogenic effect and enhanced the activity of tissue non-specific alkaline phosphatase. We hypothesize that the sHA1-triggered change in FN assembly influences the entire ECM network and could be the underlying mechanism for the pro-osteogenic effect of sHA1 on hBMSC.
Project description:In the process of matrix assembly, multivalent extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are induced to self-associate and to interact with other ECM proteins to form fibrillar networks. Matrix assembly is usually initiated by ECM glycoproteins binding to cell surface receptors, such as fibronectin (FN) dimers binding to ?5ß1 integrin. Receptor binding stimulates FN self-association mediated by the N-terminal assembly domain and organizes the actin cytoskeleton to promote cell contractility. FN conformational changes expose additional binding sites that participate in fibril formation and in conversion of fibrils into a stabilized, insoluble form. Once assembled, the FN matrix impacts tissue organization by contributing to the assembly of other ECM proteins. Here, we describe the major steps, molecular interactions, and cellular mechanisms involved in assembling FN dimers into fibrillar matrix while highlighting important issues and major questions that require further investigation.
Project description:Cells within tissues are surrounded by fibrillar extracellular matrix (ECM) that supports cell adhesion via integrin receptors. The strength of cell interactions with fibrillar matrix and the effects of force on these interactions have not been quantified. To this end, we used a spinning disc device to apply radially increasing shear to human HT1080 fibrosarcoma cells attached to a cell-derived fibrillar fibronectin (FN) matrix. The shear required to detach 50% of HT1080 cells was eight times greater on a FN-coated, rigid glass substrate than on fibrillar FN matrix. Covalent crosslinking of the FN matrix increased its stiffness tenfold and produced a modest increase in shear detachment force for these cells. On FN-coated surfaces, cells detach by releasing interactions between alpha5beta1 integrin and FN. By contrast, cell detachment from fibrillar matrix occurred through a novel mechanism of fibril breakage, which left holes in the matrix visible by fluorescence microscopy. These results show that cells require less force to detach from fibrillar matrix than from FN adsorbed on glass and that detachment occurs through breaking fibrils instead of by release of integrin-matrix bonds. Thus, ECM fibril breakage is another molecular feature to consider when understanding cell and tissue homeostasis.
Project description:The extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins fibronectin (FN) and type I collagen (collagen I) are codistributed in many tissues, and collagens have been shown to depend on an FN matrix for fibrillogenesis. Microscopic analysis of a fibroblast ECM showed colocalization of procollagen I with FN fibrils, and proteolytic cleavage of procollagen to initiate fibril formation was significantly reduced with inhibition of FN matrix assembly. We examined the role of FN matrix in procollagen processing by the C-propeptide proteinase bone morphogenetic protein 1 (BMP-1). We found that BMP-1 binds to a cell-assembled ECM in a dose-dependent manner and that, like procollagen, BMP-1 colocalizes with FN fibrils in the matrix microenvironment. Binding studies with FN fragments identified a binding site in FN's primary heparin-binding domain. In solution, BMP-1-FN interactions and BMP-1 cleavage of procollagen I were both enhanced by the presence of heparin, suggesting a role for heparin in complex formation during proteolysis. Indeed, addition of heparin enhanced the rate of procollagen cleavage by matrix-bound BMP-1. Our results show that matrix localization of this proteinase facilitates the initiation of collagen assembly and suggest a model in which FN matrix and associated heparan sulfate act as a scaffold to organize enzyme and substrate for procollagen processing.
Project description:During extracellular matrix (ECM) assembly, fibronectin (FN) fibrils are irreversibly converted into a detergent-insoluble form which, through FN's multi-domain structure, can interact with collagens, matricellular proteins, and growth factors to build a definitive matrix. FN also has heparin/heparan sulfate (HS) binding sites. Using HS-deficient CHO cells, we show that the addition of soluble heparin significantly increased the amount of FN matrix that these cells assemble. Sulfated HS glycosaminoglycan (GAG) mimetics similarly increased FN assembly and demonstrated a dependence on GAG sulfation. The length of the heparin chains also plays a role in assembly. Chains of sufficient length to bind to two FN molecules gave maximal stimulation of assembly whereas shorter heparin had less of an effect. Using a decellularized fibroblast matrix for proteolysis, detergent fractionation, and mass spectrometry, we found that the predominant domain within insoluble fibril fragments is FN's major heparin-binding domain HepII (modules III12-14). Multiple HepII domains bind simultaneously to a single heparin chain in size exclusion chromatography analyses. We propose a model in which heparin/HS binding to the HepII domain connects multiple FNs together to facilitate the formation of protein interactions for insoluble fibril assembly.
Project description:The extracellular matrix (ECM) consists of polymerized protein monomers that form a unique fibrous network providing stability and structural support to surrounding cells. We harnessed the fibrillogenesis mechanisms of naturally occurring ECM proteins to produce artificial fibers with a heterogeneous protein makeup. Using ECM proteins as fibril building blocks, we created uniquely structured multi-component ECM fibers. Sequential incubation of fibronectin (FN) and laminin (LAM) resulted in self-assembly into locally stacked fibers. In contrast, simultaneous incubation of FN with LAM or collagen (COL) produced molecularly stacked multi-component fibers because both proteins share a similar assembly mechanism or possess binding domains specific to each other. Sequential incubation of COL on FN fibers resulted in fibers with sandwiched layers because COL molecules bind to the external surface of FN fibers. By choosing proteins for incubation according to the interplay of their fibrillogenesis mechanisms and their binding domains (exposed when they unfold), we were able to create ECM protein fibers that have never before been observed.
Project description:Introduction—:The extracellular matrix (ECM) in the tumor microenvironment contains high densities of collagen that are highly aligned, resulting in directional migration called contact guidance that facilitates efficient migration out of the tumor. Cancer cells can remodel the ECM through traction force controlled by myosin contractility or proteolytic activity controlled by matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity, leading to either enhanced or diminished contact guidance. Methods—:Recently, we have leveraged the ability of mica to epitaxially grow aligned collagen fibrils in order to assess contact guidance. In this article, we probe the mechanisms of remodeling of aligned collagen fibrils on mica by breast cancer cells. Results—:We show that cells that contact guide with high fidelity (MDA-MB-231 cells) exert more force on the underlying collagen fibrils than do cells that contact guide with low fidelity (MTLn3 cells). These high traction cells (MDA-MB-231 cells) remodel collagen fibrils over hours, pulling so hard that the collagen fibrils detach from the surface, effectively delaminating the entire contact guidance cue. Myosin or MMP inhibition decreases this effect. Interestingly, blocking MMP appears to increase the alignment of cells on these substrates, potentially allowing the alignment through myosin contractility to be uninhibited. Finally, amplification or dampening of contact guidance with respect to a particular collagen fibril organization is seen under different conditions. Conclusions—:Both myosin II contractility and MMP activity allow MDA-MB-231 cells to remodel and eventually destroy epitaxially grown aligned collagen fibrils.