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Commun Integr Biol. 2010 Jan;3(1):53-6.

Cell communication and tissue engineering.

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Departments of Biologic and Materials Sciences, and Biomedical Engineering; University of Michigan; Ann Arbor, MI USA.


Gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC) is ubiquitous in the majority of cells and is indispensable for proper development and function of most tissues. The loss of gap junction mediated cell to cell communication leads to compromised development in many tissues and organs, and also facilitates tumorigenesis and autonomous cell behavior in cancerous cells. Because cells embedded in an extracellular matrix constantly interact through gap junctions to coordinate normal tissue functions and homeostasis, our group hypothesized that increasing cell to cell communication, via genetically engineering cells to overexpress gap junction proteins, could improve cell signaling and increase differentiation in interior regions of engineered tissue equivalents. In a recent paper,1 we presented a platform to regenerate full 3D equivalents of engineered tissue, providing a strategy to overcome a barrier in regenerative medicine. These findings suggest that both targeted delivery and cell-based strategies can be used as treatments to enhance communication in 3D living tissue.2 In this addendum, we address the effects of extracellular calcium (Ca(2+) (e)) on intracellular calcium (Ca(2+) (i)), GJIC and osteogenic differentiation under conditions in which bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) also exhibit higher cell-to-cell communication. As a key secondary messenger in many biological processes, the levels of Ca(2+) (e) and Ca(2+) (i) play a role in cell differentiation and may be a tunable signal in tissue regeneration. Higher cell-to-cell communication was achieved by both genetically engineering cells to overexpress connexin 43 (Cx43) and by a high density cell seeding technique, denoted micromass seeding (MM). The results presented in this addendum show that the intensity and duration of a second messenger, like calcium, can be augmented in a platform that enables higher cell-to-cell communication. The ability to modulate calcium signaling, combined with our previous approaches to modulate GJIC, may have an impact on tissue regeneration and therapies for communication incompetent cells, such as those associated with heart disease and certain types of cancer.


Bone; calcium; connexin 43 (Cx43); gap junction intercellular communication (GJIC); micromass cultures


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