Metabolic Responses Induced by Compression of Chondrocytes in Variable-Stiffness Microenvironments

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Cells sense and respond to mechanical loads in a process called mechanotransduction. These processes are disrupted in the chondrocytes of cartilage during joint disease. A key driver of cellular mechanotransduction is the stiffness of the surrounding matrix. Many cells are surrounded by extracellular matrix that allows for tissue mechanical function. Although prior studies demonstrate that extracellular stiffness is important in cell differentiation, morphology and phenotype, it remains largely unknown how a cell’s biological response to cyclical loading varies with changes in surrounding substrate stiffness. Understanding these processes is important for understanding cells that are cyclically loaded during daily in vivo activities (e.g. chondrocytes and walking). This study uses high-performance liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry to identify metabolomic changes in primary chondrocytes under cyclical compression for 0-30 minutes in low- and high- stiffness environments. Metabolomic analysis reveals metabolites and pathways that are sensitive to substrate stiffness, duration of cyclical compression, and a combination of both suggesting changes in extracellular stiffness in vivo alter mechanosensitive signaling. Our results further suggest that cyclical loading minimizes matrix deterioration and increases matrix production in chondrocytes. This study shows the importance of modeling in vivo stiffness with in vitro models to understand cellular mechanotransduction.




McCutchen, Carley N. , Donald L. Zignego, and Ronald K. June. "Metabolic Responses Induced by Compression of Chondrocytes in Variable-Stiffness Microenvironments." Journal of Biomechanics (September 2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.08.032.
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