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Biomaterials. 2014 Jan;35(1):71-82. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.09.066. Epub 2013 Oct 10.

Augmentation of integrin-mediated mechanotransduction by hyaluronic acid.

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  • 1Dept. of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Drexel Univ. College of Med, Philadelphia, PA, USA; Dept. of Bioengineering, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Changes in tissue and organ stiffness occur during development and are frequently symptoms of disease. Many cell types respond to the stiffness of substrates and neighboring cells in vitro and most cell types increase adherent area on stiffer substrates that are coated with ligands for integrins or cadherins. In vivo cells engage their extracellular matrix (ECM) by multiple mechanosensitive adhesion complexes and other surface receptors that potentially modify the mechanical signals transduced at the cell/ECM interface. Here we show that hyaluronic acid (also called hyaluronan or HA), a soft polymeric glycosaminoglycan matrix component prominent in embryonic tissue and upregulated during multiple pathologic states, augments or overrides mechanical signaling by some classes of integrins to produce a cellular phenotype otherwise observed only on very rigid substrates. The spread morphology of cells on soft HA-fibronectin coated substrates, characterized by formation of large actin bundles resembling stress fibers and large focal adhesions resembles that of cells on rigid substrates, but is activated by different signals and does not require or cause activation of the transcriptional regulator YAP. The fact that HA production is tightly regulated during development and injury and frequently upregulated in cancers characterized by uncontrolled growth and cell movement suggests that the interaction of signaling between HA receptors and specific integrins might be an important element in mechanical control of development and homeostasis.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Cell spreading; Extracellular matrix; Hyaluronic acid; Mechanosensing; Traction stresses; Yes associated protein (YAP)

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