Fibroblast cluster formation on 3D collagen matrices requires cell contraction dependent fibronectin matrix organization

Bruno da Rocha-Azevedo, Chin Han Ho, Frederick Grinnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Fibroblasts incubated on 3D collagen matrices in serum or lysophosphatidic acid (LPA)-containing medium self-organize into clusters through a mechanism that requires cell contraction. However, in platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-containing medium, cells migrate as individuals and do not form clusters even though they constantly encounter each other. Here, we present evidence that a required function of cell contraction in clustering is formation of fibronectin (FN) fibrillar matrix. We found that in serum or LPA but not in PDGF or basal medium, cells organized FN (both serum and cellular) into a fibrillar, detergent-insoluble matrix. Cell clusters developed concomitant with FN matrix formation. FN fibrils accumulated beneath cells and along the borders of cell clusters in regions of cell-matrix tension. Blocking Rho kinase or myosin II activity prevented FN matrix assembly and cell clustering. Using siRNA silencing and function-blocking antibodies and peptides, we found that cell clustering and FN matrix assembly required α5Β1 integrins and fibronectin. Cells were still able to exert contractile force and compact the collagen matrix under the latter conditions, which showed that contraction was not sufficient for cell clustering to occur. Our findings provide new insights into how procontractile (serum/LPA) and promigratory (PDGF) growth factor environments can differentially regulate FN matrix assembly by fibroblasts interacting with collagen matrices and thereby influence mesenchymal cell morphogenetic behavior under physiologic circumstances such as wound repair, morphogenesis and malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-555
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2013


  • 3D collagen matrix
  • Cell contraction
  • Cell migration
  • Fibronectin
  • Integrin
  • Tissue morphogenesis
  • Wound repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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