Fibroblast cytoskeletal remodeling contributes to connective tissue tension.

Department of Neurology, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.
Journal of Cellular Physiology (Impact Factor: 4.22). 10/2010; 226(5):1166-75. DOI: 10.1002/jcp.22442
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The visco-elastic behavior of connective tissue is generally attributed to the material properties of the extracellular matrix rather than cellular activity. We have previously shown that fibroblasts within areolar connective tissue exhibit dynamic cytoskeletal remodeling within minutes in response to tissue stretch ex vivo and in vivo. Here, we tested the hypothesis that fibroblasts, through this cytoskeletal remodeling, actively contribute to the visco-elastic behavior of the whole tissue. We measured significantly increased tissue tension when cellular function was broadly inhibited by sodium azide and when cytoskeletal dynamics were compromised by disrupting microtubules (with colchicine) or actomyosin contractility (via Rho kinase inhibition). These treatments led to a decrease in cell body cross-sectional area and cell field perimeter (obtained by joining the end of all of a fibroblast's processes). Suppressing lamellipodia formation by inhibiting Rac-1 decreased cell body cross-sectional area but did not affect cell field perimeter or tissue tension. Thus, by changing shape, fibroblasts can dynamically modulate the visco-elastic behavior of areolar connective tissue through Rho-dependent cytoskeletal mechanisms. These results have broad implications for our understanding of the dynamic interplay of forces between fibroblasts and their surrounding matrix, as well as for the neural, vascular, and immune cell populations residing within connective tissue.

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