Fibroblast-fibronectin patterning and network formation in 3D fibrin matrices

Miguel Miron-Mendoza, Eric Graham, Sujal Manohar, W. Matthew Petroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose We previously reported that fibroblasts migrating within 3-D collagen matrices move independently, whereas fibroblasts within 3-D fibrin matrices form an interconnected network. Similar networks have been identified previously during in vivo corneal wound healing. In this study, we investigate the role of fibronectin in mediating this mechanism of collective cell spreading, migration and patterning. Methods To assess cell spreading, corneal fibroblasts were plated within fibrillar collagen or fibrin matrices. To assess migration, compacted cell-populated collagen matrices were nested inside cell-free fibrin matrices. Constructs were cultured in serum-free media containing PDGF, with or without RGD peptide, anti-α5 or anti-fibronectin blocking antibodies. In some experiments, LifeAct and fluorescent fibronectin were used to allow dynamic assessment of cell-induced fibronectin reorganization. 3-D and 4-D imaging were used to assess cell mechanical behavior, connectivity, F-actin, α5 integrin and fibronectin organization. Results Corneal fibroblasts within 3-D fibrin matrices formed an interconnected network that was lined with cell-secreted fibronectin. Live cell imaging demonstrated that fibronectin tracks were formed at the leading edge of spreading and migrating cells. Furthermore, fibroblasts preferentially migrated through fibronectin tracks laid down by other cells. Interfering with cell-fibronectin binding with RGD, anti α5 integrin or anti fibronectin antibodies inhibited cell spreading and migration through fibrin, but did not affect cell behavior in collagen. Conclusions In this study, a novel mode of cell patterning was identified in which corneal fibroblasts secrete and attach to fibronectin via α5β1 integrin to facilitate spreading and migration within 3-D fibrin matrices, resulting in the formation of localized fibronectin tracks. Other cells use these fibronectin tracks as conduits, resulting in an interconnected cell-fibronectin network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-80
Number of pages12
JournalMatrix Biology
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Cell mechanics
  • Corneal keratocytes
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Fibrin
  • Fibronectin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology


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