Effects of collagen gel stiffness on Cdc42 activities of endothelial colony forming cells during early vacuole formation

Seung Joon Kim, Purdue University


Recent preclinical reports have provided evidence that endothelial colony forming cells (ECFCs), a subset of endothelial progenitor cells, significantly improve vessel formation, largely due to their robust vasculogenic potential. While it has been known that the Rho family GTPase Cdc42 is involved in this ECFC-driven vessel formation process, the effect of extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness on its activity during vessel formation is largely unknown. Using a fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based Cdc42 biosensor, we examined the spatio-temporal activity of Cdc42 of ECFCs in three-dimensional (3D) collagen matrices with varying stiffness. The result revealed that ECFCs exhibited an increase in Cdc42 activity in a soft (150 Pa) matrix, while they were much less responsive in a rigid (1 kPa) matrix. In both soft and rigid matrices, Cdc42 was highly activated near vacuoles. However, its activity is higher in a soft matrix than that in a rigid matrix. The observed Cdc42 activity was closely associated with vacuole formation. Soft matrices induced higher Cdc42 activity and faster vacuole formation than rigid matrices. However, vacuole area is not dependent on the stiffness of matrices. Time courses of Cdc42 activity and vacuole formation data revealed that Cdc42 activity proceeds vacuole formation. Collectively, these results suggest that matrix stiffness is critical in regulating Cdc42 activity in ECFCs and its activation is an important step in early vacuole formation.




Na, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Biomedical engineering

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