Experimental and molecular pathology

Fibroblast expression of α-smooth muscle actin, α2β1 integrin and αvβ3 integrin: influence of surface rigidity.

PMID 21530503


Open wound contraction necessitates cell and connective tissue interactions, that produce tension. Investigating fibroblast responses to tension utilizes collagen coated polyacrylamide gels with differences in stiffness. Human foreskin fibroblasts were plated on native type I collagen-coated polyacrylamide gel cover slips with different rigidities, which were controlled by bis-acrylamide concentrations. Changes in alpha smooth muscle actin (αSMA), α2β1 integrin (CD49B) and αvβ3 integrin (CD-51) were documented by immuno-histology and Western blot analysis. Cells plated on rigid gels were longer, and expressed αvβ3 integrin and αSMA within cytoplasmic stress fibers. In contrast, cells on flexible gels were shorter, expressed α2β1 integrin and had fine cytoskeletal microfilaments without αSMA. Increased tension changed the actin makeup of the cytoskeleton and the integrin expressed on the cell's surface. These in vitro findings are in agreement with the tension buildup as an open wound closes by wound contraction. It supports the notion that cells under minimal tension in early granulation tissue express α2β1 integrin, required for organizing fine collagen fibrils into thick collagen fibers. Thicker fibers create a rigid matrix, generating more tension. With increased tension cytoskeletal stress fibers develop that contain αSMA and αvβ3 integrin that replaces α2β1 integrin, consistent with cell switching from collagen to non-collagen proteins interactions.

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