Stiffness mediated-mechanosensation of airway smooth muscle cells on linear stiffness gradient hydrogels

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Abstract

In obstructive airway diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the extracellular matrix (ECM) protein amount and composition of the airway smooth muscle (ASM) is often remodelled, likely altering tissue stiffness. The underlying mechanism of how human ASM cell (hASMC) mechanosenses the aberrant microenvironment is not well understood. Physiological stiffnesses of the ASM were measured by uniaxial compression tester using porcine ASM layers under 0, 5 and 10% longitudinal stretch above in situ length. Linear stiffness gradient hydrogels (230 kPa range) were fabricated and functionalized with ECM proteins, collagen I (ColI), fibronectin (Fn) and laminin (Ln), to recapitulate the above-measured range of stiffnesses. Overall, hASMC mechanosensation exhibited a clear correlation with the underlying hydrogel stiffness. Cell size, nuclear size and contractile marker alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha SMA) expression showed a strong correlation to substrate stiffness. Mechanosensation, assessed by Lamin-A intensity and nuc/cyto YAP, exhibited stiffness-mediated behaviour only on ColI and Fn-coated hydrogels. Inhibition studies using blebbistatin or Y27632 attenuated most mechanotransduction-derived cell morphological responses, alpha SMA and Lamin-A expression and nuc/cyto YAP (blebbistatin only). This study highlights the interplay and complexities between stiffness and ECM protein type on hASMC mechanosensation, relevant to airway remodelling in obstructive airway diseases.

To determine how human airway smooth muscle cells (hASMCs) mechanosense the microenvironment from airway remodelling in obstructive airway diseases, hASMCs were cultured on linear stiffness gradient hydrogels (2-30 kPa) coated with different ECM proteins. Cell morphology, contractile marker alpha-smooth muscle actin and mechanomarkers revealed that hASMCs mechanosense underlying stiffness more than the type of ECM proteins they anchor to. image.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2304254
Number of pages11
JournalAdvanced Healthcare Materials
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2024

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