The conjunctive presence of mechanical stress and active transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) is essential to convert fibroblasts into contractile myofibroblasts, which cause tissue contractures in fibrotic diseases. Using cultured myofibroblasts and conditions that permit tension modulation on the extracellular matrix (ECM), we establish that myofibroblast contraction functions as a mechanism to directly activate TGF-β1 from self-generated stores in the ECM. Contraction of myofibroblasts and myofibroblast cytoskeletons prepared with Triton X-100 releases active TGF-β1 from the ECM. This process is inhibited either by antagonizing integrins or reducing ECM compliance and is independent from protease activity. Stretching myofibroblast-derived ECM in the presence of mechanically apposing stress fibers immediately activates latent TGF-β1. In myofibroblast-populated wounds, activation of the downstream targets of TGF-β1 signaling Smad2/3 is higher in stressed compared to relaxed tissues despite similar levels of total TGF-β1 and its receptor. We propose activation of TGF-β1 via integrin-mediated myofibroblast contraction as a potential checkpoint in the progression of fibrosis, restricting autocrine generation of myofibroblasts to a stiffened ECM.
Expression of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) renders fibroblasts highly contractile and hallmarks myofibroblast differentiation. We identify α-SMA as a mechanosensitive protein that is recruited to stress fibers under high tension. Generation of this threshold tension requires the anchoring of stress fibers at sites of 8–30-μm-long “supermature” focal adhesions (suFAs), which exert a stress approximately fourfold higher (∼12 nN/μm2) on micropatterned deformable substrates than 2–6-μm-long classical FAs. Inhibition of suFA formation by growing myofibroblasts on substrates with a compliance of ≤11 kPa and on rigid micropatterns of 6-μm-long classical FA islets confines α-SMA to the cytosol. Reincorporation of α-SMA into stress fibers is established by stretching 6-μm-long classical FAs to 8.1-μm-long suFA islets on extendable membranes; the same stretch producing 5.4-μm-long classical FAs from initially 4-μm-long islets is without effect. We propose that the different molecular composition and higher phosphorylation of FAs on supermature islets, compared with FAs on classical islets, accounts for higher stress resistance.
Dynamic actin network at the leading edge of the cell is linked to the extracellular matrix through focal adhesions (FAs), and at the same time it undergoes retrograde flow with different dynamics in two distinct zones: the lamellipodium (peripheral zone of fast flow), and the lamellum (zone of slow flow located between the lamellipodium and the cell body). Cell migration involves expansion of both the lamellipodium and the lamellum, as well as formation of new FAs, but it is largely unknown how the position of the boundary between the two flow zones is defined, and how FAs and actin flow mutually influence each other. We investigated dynamic relationship between focal adhesions and the boundary between the two flow zones in spreading cells. Nascent FAs first appeared in the lamellipodium. Within seconds after the formation of new FAs, the rate of actin flow decreased locally, and the lamellipodium/lamellum boundary advanced towards the new FAs. Blocking fast actin flow with cytochalasin D resulted in rapid dissolution of nascent FAs. In the absence of FAs (spreading on poly-L-lysine-coated surfaces) retrograde flow was uniform and the velocity transition was not observed. We conclude that formation of FAs depends on actin dynamics, and in its turn, affects the dynamics of actin flow by triggering transition from fast to slow flow. Extension of the cell edge thus proceeds through a cycle of lamellipodium protrusion, formation of new FAs, advance of the lamellum, and protrusion of the lamellipodium from the new base.
Myofibroblasts of wound granulation tissue, in contrast to dermal fibroblasts, join stress fibers at sites of cadherin-type intercellular adherens junctions (AJs). However, the function of myofibroblast AJs, their molecular composition, and the mechanisms of their formation are largely unknown. We demonstrate that fibroblasts change cadherin expression from N-cadherin in early wounds to OB-cadherin in contractile wounds, populated with alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA)-positive myofibroblasts. A similar shift occurs during myofibroblast differentiation in culture and seems to be responsible for the homotypic segregation of alpha-SMA-positive and -negative fibroblasts in suspension. AJs of plated myofibroblasts are reinforced by alpha-SMA-mediated contractile activity, resulting in high mechanical resistance as demonstrated by subjecting cell pairs to hydrodynamic forces in a flow chamber. A peptide that inhibits alpha-SMA-mediated contractile force causes the reorganization of large stripe-like AJs to belt-like contacts as shown for enhanced green fluorescent protein-alpha-catenin-transfected cells and is associated with a reduced mechanical resistance. Anti-OB-cadherin but not anti-N-cadherin peptides reduce the contraction of myofibroblast-populated collagen gels, suggesting that AJs are instrumental for myofibroblast contractile activity.
Seven classic and recently proposed methods used for the estimation of total arterial compliance have been evaluated for their accuracy and applicability in different physiological conditions. The pressure and flow data are taken from a computer model that provides realistic simulations of the nonlinear-distributed systemic arterial tree. Besides the great flexibility in simulating different physiological or pathological cases, the major advantage of the computer model is that it allows precise knowledge of the pressure-dependent total arterial compliance, which is the variable of interest. The results show that the methods based on the two-element windkessel (WK) model are more accurate than those based on the three-element WK model. The classic exponential decay and the diastolic area method yield essentially similar results, and their compliance estimates are accurate within 10% except at high heart rates. The later part of diastole, i.e., from the time that the systolic pressure wave has reached all peripheral beds, gives the best results. The newly proposed two-area and pulse pressure methods, both based on the two-element WK model, are accurate (errors in general < 10%) and can be applied to other locations in the arterial tree where the decay time and area method cannot. Methods based on the three-element WK model consistently overestimate total arterial compliance (> or = 25%). The errors in the methods based on the three-element WK model arise from the fact that the input impedance in that model deviates significantly from the true input impedance at low frequencies. The strong dependence of compliance on pressure (elastic nonlinearity) does not invalidate the compliance estimates.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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