AIMS Bioengineering, 2016, 3(4): 515-527. doi: 10.3934/bioeng.2016.4.515

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Growth on elastic silicone substrate elicits a partial myogenic response in periodontal ligament derived stem cells

1 Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Miami, FL, USA
2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA

The processes of cellular differentiation and phenotypic maintenance can be influenced by stimuli from a variety of different factors. One commonly overlooked factor is the mechanical properties of the growth substrate in which stem cells are maintained or differentiated down various lineages. Here we explored the effect that growth on an elastic silicone substrate had on the myogenic expression and cytoskeletal morphology of periodontal ligament derived stem cells. Cells were grown on either collagen I coated tissue culture polystyrene plates or collagen I coated elastic silicone membranes for a period of 4 days without further induction from soluble factors in the culture media. Following the 4-day growth, gene expression and immunohistochemical analysis for key cardiomyogenic markers was performed along with a morphological assessment of cytoskeletal organization. Results show that cells grown on the elastic substrate significantly upregulate key markers associated with contractile activity in muscle tissues. Namely, the myosin light chain polypeptides 2 and 7, as well as the myosin heavy chain polypeptide 7 genes underwent a statistically significant upregulation in the cells grown on elastic silicone membranes. Similarly, the cells on the softer elastic substrate stained positive for both sarcomeric actin and cardiac troponin t proteins following just 4 days of growth on the softer material. Cytoskeletal analysis showed that substrate stiffness had a marked effect on the organization and distribution of filamentous actin fibers within the cell body. Growth on silicone membranes produced flatter and shorter cellular morphologies with filamentous actin fibers projecting anisotropically throughout the cell body. These results demonstrate how crucial the mechanical properties of the growth substrate of cells can be on the ultimate cellular phenotype. These observations highlight the need to further optimize differentiation protocols to enhance the application of cellular products in the fields of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapies.
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