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J Cell Physiol. 2013 Jan;228(1):50-7. doi: 10.1002/jcp.24102.

Stress and matrix-responsive cytoskeletal remodeling in fibroblasts.

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School of Engineering, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA.


In areolar "loose" connective tissue, fibroblasts remodel their cytoskeleton within minutes in response to static stretch resulting in increased cell body cross-sectional area that relaxes the tissue to a lower state of resting tension. It remains unknown whether the loosely arranged collagen matrix, characteristic of areolar connective tissue, is required for this cytoskeletal response to occur. The purpose of this study was to evaluate cytoskeletal remodeling of fibroblasts in, and dissociated from, areolar and dense connective tissue in response to 2 h of static stretch in both native tissue and collagen gels of varying crosslinking. Rheometric testing indicated that the areolar connective tissue had a lower dynamic modulus and was more viscous than the dense connective tissue. In response to stretch, cells within the more compliant areolar connective tissue adopted a large "sheet-like" morphology that was in contrast to the smaller dendritic morphology in the dense connective tissue. By adjusting the in vitro collagen crosslinking, and the resulting dynamic modulus, it was demonstrated that cells dissociated from dense connective tissue are capable of responding when seeded into a compliant matrix, while cells dissociated from areolar connective tissue can lose their ability to respond when their matrix becomes stiffer. This set of experiments indicated stretch-induced fibroblast expansion was dependent on the distinct matrix material properties of areolar connective tissues as opposed to the cells' tissue of origin. These results also suggest that disease and pathological processes with increased crosslinks, such as diabetes and fibrosis, could impair fibroblast responsiveness in connective tissues.

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