Extracellular Matrix Fibronectin Stimulates the Self-Assembly of Microtissues on Native Collagen Gels

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.
Tissue Engineering Part A (Impact Factor: 4.64). 12/2010; 16(12):3805-19. DOI: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2010.0316
Source: PubMed


Fibronectin is an adhesive glycoprotein that is polymerized into extracellular matrices via a tightly regulated, cell-dependent process. Here, we demonstrate that fibronectin matrix polymerization induces the self-assembly of multicellular structures in vitro, termed tissue bodies. Fibronectin-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts adherent to compliant gels of polymerized type I collagen failed to spread or proliferate. In contrast, addition of fibronectin to collagen-adherent fibronectin-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts resulted in a dose-dependent increase in cell number, and induced the formation of three-dimensional (3D) multicellular structures that remained adherent and well-spread on the native collagen substrate. An extensive fibrillar fibronectin matrix formed throughout the microtissue. Blocking fibronectin matrix polymerization inhibited both cell proliferation and microtissue formation, demonstrating the importance of fibronectin fibrillogenesis in triggering cellular self-organization. Cell proliferation, tissue body formation, and tissue body shape were dependent on both fibronectin and collagen concentrations, suggesting that the relative proportion of collagen and fibronectin fibrils polymerized into the extracellular matrix influences the extent of cell proliferation and the final shape of microtissues. These data demonstrate a novel role for cell-mediated fibronectin fibrillogenesis in the formation and vertical assembly of microtissues, and provide a novel approach for engineering complex tissue architecture.

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    • "We first tested the effects of R1R2 on fibronectin-induced cell proliferation. FN-MEFs seeded on polymerized collagen gels in the absence of fibronectin do not proliferate [21] and remain rounded over the course of 6 days (Fig. 6Ba,f). The increase in cell proliferation that occurs in response to either 25 nM or 100 nM fibronectin was completely inhibited by addition of R1R2 (Figure 6A), and was not affected by addition of the control peptide, III-11C (Figure 6A), demonstrating specificity of the R1R2 fragment. "
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    ABSTRACT: The extracellular matrix protein, fibronectin stimulates cells to self-assemble into three-dimensional multicellular structures by a mechanism that requires the cell-dependent conversion of soluble fibronectin molecules into insoluble fibrils. Fibronectin also binds to collagen type I and mediates the co-assembly of collagen fibrils into the extracellular matrix. Here, the role of collagen-fibronectin binding in fibronectin-induced cellular self-assembly was investigated using fibronectin-null fibroblasts in an in vitro model of tissue formation. High resolution, two-photon immunofluorescence microscopy was combined with second harmonic generation imaging to examine spatial and temporal relationships among fibronectin and collagen fibrils, actin organization, cell proliferation, and microtissue morphology. Time course studies coupled with simultaneous 4-channel multiphoton imaging identified regional differences in fibronectin fibril conformation, collagen fibril remodeling, actin organization, and cell proliferation during three-dimensional cellular self-assembly. Regional differences in cell proliferation and fibronectin structure were dependent on both soluble fibronectin concentration and fibronectin-collagen interactions. Fibronectin-collagen binding was not necessary for either fibronectin matrix formation or intercellular cohesion. However, inhibiting fibronectin binding to collagen reduced collagen fibril remodeling, decreased fibronectin fibril extension, blocked fibronectin-induced cell proliferation, and altered microtissue morphology. Furthermore, continual fibronectin-collagen binding was necessary to maintain both cell proliferation and microtissue morphology. Collectively, these data suggest that the complex changes in extracellular matrix and cytoskeletal remodeling that mediate tissue assembly are driven, in part, by regional variations in cell-mediated fibronectin-collagen co-assembly.
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    ABSTRACT: Therapeutic protein engineering combines genetic, biochemical, and functional information to improve existing proteins or invent new protein technologies. Using these principles, we developed an approach to deliver extracellular matrix (ECM) fibronectin-specific signals to cells. Fibronectin matrix assembly is a cell-dependent process that converts the inactive, soluble form of fibronectin into biologically-active ECM fibrils. ECM fibronectin stimulates cell functions required for normal tissue regeneration, including cell growth, spreading, migration, and collagen reorganization. We have developed recombinant fibronectin fragments that mimic the effects of ECM fibronectin on cell function by coupling the cryptic heparin-binding fragment of fibronectin's first type III repeat (FNIII1H) to the integrin-binding domain (FNIII8-10). GST/III1H,8-10 supports cell adhesion and spreading and stimulates cell proliferation to a greater extent than plasma fibronectin. Deletion and site-specific mutant constructs were generated to identify the active regions in GST/III1H,8-10 and reduce construct size. A chimeric construct in which the integrin-binding, RGDS loop was inserted into the analogous site in FNIII8 (GST/III1H,8(RGD)), supported cell adhesion and migration, and enhanced cell proliferation and collagen gel contraction. GST/III1H,8(RGD) was expressed in bacteria and purified from soluble lysate fractions by affinity chromatography. Fibronectin matrix assembly is normally up-regulated in response to tissue injury. Decreased levels of ECM fibronectin are associated with non-healing wounds. Engineering fibronectin matrix mimetics that bypass the need for cell-dependent fibronectin matrix assembly in chronic wounds is a novel approach to stimulating cellular activities critical for tissue repair.
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