Rho plays a central role in regulating local cell-matrix mechanical interactions in 3D culture

N. Lakshman, A. Kim, K. J. Bayless, G. E. Davis, W. M. Petroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to assess quantitatively the role of the small GTPase Rho on cell morphology, f-actin organization, and cell-induced matrix remodeling in 3D culture. Human corneal fibroblasts (HTK) were infected with adenoviruses that express green fluorescent protein (GFP) or GFP-N19Rho (dominant negative Rho). One day later cells were plated inside collagen matrices and allowed to spread for 24 h. Cells were fixed and stained for f-actin. Fluorescent (for f-actin) and reflected light (for collagen fibrils) images were acquired using confocal microscopy. Fourier transform analysis was used to assess local collagen fibril alignment, and changes in cell morphology and collagen density were measured using MetaMorph. The decrease in matrix height was used as an indicator of global matrix contraction. HTK and HTK-GFP cells induced significant global matrix contraction; this was inhibited by N19Rho. HTK and HTK-GFP fibroblasts generally had a bipolar morphology and occasional intracellular stress fibers. Collagen fibrils were compacted and aligned parallel to stress fibers and pseudopodia. In contrast, HTK-GFPN19 cells were elongated, and had a more cortical f-actin distribution. Numerous small extensions were also observed along the cell body. In addition, both local collagen fibril density and alignment were significantly reduced. Rho plays a key role in regulating both the morphology and mechanical behavior of corneal fibroblasts in 3D culture. Overall, the data suggest that Rho-kinase dependent cell contractility contributes to global and local matrix remodeling, whereas Rho dependent activation of mDia and/or other downstream effectors regulates the structure and number of cell processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-445
Number of pages12
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Collagen matrices
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Rho
  • Rho kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


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