Inducing endoderm differentiation by modulating mechanical properties of soft substrates
Published Date:Sep 24 2012
Source:J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 9(1):1-12.
Cell Culture Techniques
Embryonic Stem Cells
Gene Expression Regulation
Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
Pubmed Central ID:PMC4130804
Funding:DP2 OD006491/OD/NIH HHS/United States
DP2116520/DP/NCCDPHP CDC HHS/United States
UL1 TR000005/TR/NCATS NIH HHS/United States
Description:Early embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation is marked by the formation of three germ layers from which all tissues types arise. Conventionally, ESCs are differentiated by altering their chemical microenvironment. Recently however, it was established that a mechanical microenvironment can also contribute towards cellular phenotype commitment. In this study, we report how the cellular mechanical microenvironment of soft substrates affects the differentiation and phenotypic commitment of ESCs. Mouse ESCs were cultured in a fibrin hydrogel matrix in 2D and 3D cultures. The gelation characteristics of the substrates were modulated by systematically altering the fibrinogen concentration and the fibrinogen-thrombin crosslinking ratio. Analysis of the ESCs cultured on different substrate conditions clearly illustrated the strong influence that substrate physical characteristics assert on cellular behaviours. Specifically, it was found that ESCs had a higher proliferation rate in gels of lower stiffness. Early differentiation events were studied by analyzing the gene and protein expression levels of early germ layer markers. Our results revealed that lower substrate stiffness elicited stronger upregulation of endoderm related genes Sox17, Afp and Hnf4 compared to stiffer substrates. While both 2D and 3D cultures showed a similar response, the effects were much stronger in 3D culture. These results suggest that physical cues can be used to modulate ESC differentiation into clinically relevant tissues such as liver and pancreas.
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