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Probing the Role of Integrins in Keratinocyte Migration Using Bioengineered Extracellular Matrix Mimics

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posted on 02.10.2017, 00:00 by Wilhelm W. Chen, Monica S. Tjin, Alvin W. C. Chua, Seng Teik Lee, Chor Yong Tay, Eileen Fong
Bioengineered extracellular matrix (ECM) mimetic materials have tunable properties and can be engineered to elicit desirable cellular responses for wound repair and tissue regeneration. By incorporating relevant cell-instructive domains, bioengineered ECM mimics can be designed to provide well-defined ECM-specific cues to influence cell motility and differentiation. More importantly, bioengineered ECM surfaces are ideal platforms for studying cell–material interactions without the need to genetically alter the cells. Here, we showed that bioengineered ECM mimics can be employed to clarify the role of integrins in keratinocyte migration. Particularly, the roles of α5β1 and α3β1 in keratinocytes were examined, given their known importance in keratinocyte motility. Two recombinant proteins were constructed; each protein contains a functional domain taken from fibronectin (FN-mimic) and laminin-332 (LN-mimic), designed to bind α5β1 and α3β1, respectively. We examined how patient-derived primary human keratinocytes migrate when sparsely seeded as well as when allowed to move collectively. We found, consistently, that FN-mimic promoted cell migration while the LN-mimic did not support cell motility. We showed that, when keratinocytes utilize α5β1 integrins on FN-mimics, they were able to form stable focal adhesion plaques and stabilized lamellipodia. On the other hand, keratinocytes on LN-mimic utilized primarily α3β1 integrins for migration and, strikingly, cells were unable to activate Rac1 and form stable focal adhesion plaques. Taken together, employment of our bioengineered mimics has allowed us to clarify the roles of α5β1 and α3β1 integrins in keratinocyte migration, as well as further provided a mechanistic explanation for their differences.