Interrogating cardiac muscle cell mechanobiology on stiffness gradient hydrogels

Ian L Chin, Livia Hool, Yu Suk Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling is a major facet of cardiac development and disease, yet our understanding of cardiomyocyte mechanotransduction remains limited. To enhance our understanding of cardiomyocyte mechanosensation, we studied stiffness-driven changes to cell morphology and mechanomarker expression in H9C2 cells and neonatal rat cardiomyocytes (NRCMs). Linear stiffness gradient polyacrylamide hydrogels (2-33 kPa) coated with ECM proteins including Collagen I (Col), Fibronectin (Fn) or Laminin (Ln) were used to represent necrotic, healthy, and infarcted cardiac tissue on a continuous stiffness gradient. Cell size, cell shape and nuclear size were found to be mechanosensitive in H9C2 cells, as was the expression or nuclear translocalization of the mechanomarkers Lamin-A, YAP, and MRTF-A. Minor differences were observed between the different ECM coatings, with the same overarching stiffness-dependent trends being observed across Col, Fn and Ln coated hydrogels. Inhibition of mechanotransduction in H9C2 cells using blebbistatin or Y27632 resulted in disruptions to cell shape, nuclear shape, and nuclear size, however, trends in cell size and mechanomarker expression were not significantly attenuated. Mechanosensation in NRCMs was much less marked, with no significant changes in cell morphology being detected, although YAP did become increasingly nuclear localized with increasing stiffness. In α-actinin positive cells, striations formed with regular structure and frequency at all stiffnesses for Col and Fn coated hydrogels, but not Ln coated gels. In this study, we used our stiffness gradient hydrogels to comprehensively map the relationship between ECM stiffness and cardiac cell phenotype and found that less mature H9C2 cardiac cells are more sensitive to ECM changes than the more developed neonatal cardiomyocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6795-6806
Number of pages12
JournalBiomaterials Science
Issue number20
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2021


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