skip to main content

Title: Mechanotransduction-on-chip: vessel-chip model of endothelial YAP mechanobiology reveals matrix stiffness impedes shear response
Endothelial mechanobiology is a key consideration in the progression of vascular dysfunction, including atherosclerosis. However mechanistic connections between the clinically associated physical stimuli, vessel stiffness and shear stress, and how they interact to modulate plaque progression remain incompletely characterized. Vessel-chip systems are excellent candidates for modeling vascular mechanobiology as they may be engineered from the ground up, guided by the mechanical parameters present in human arteries and veins, to recapitulate key features of the vasculature. Here, we report extensive validation of a vessel-chip model of endothelial yes-associated protein (YAP) mechanobiology, a protein sensitive to both matrix stiffness and shearing forces and, importantly, implicated in atherosclerotic progression. Our model captures the established endothelial mechanoresponse, with endothelial alignment, elongation, reduction of adhesion molecules, and YAP cytoplasmic retention under high laminar shear. Conversely, we observed disturbed morphology, inflammation, and nuclear partitioning under low, high, and high oscillatory shear. Examining targets of YAP transcriptional co-activation, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is strongly downregulated by high laminar shear, whereas it is strongly upregulated by low shear or oscillatory flow. Ankyrin repeat domain 1 (ANKRD1) is only upregulated by high oscillatory shear. Verteporfin inhibition of YAP reduced the expression of CTGF but did not affect ANKRD1. more » Lastly, substrate stiffness modulated the endothelial shear mechanoresponse. Under high shear, softer substrates showed the lowest nuclear localization of YAP whereas stiffer substrates increased nuclear localization. Low shear strongly increased nuclear localization of YAP across stiffnesses. Together, we have validated a model of endothelial mechanobiology and describe a clinically relevant biological connection between matrix stiffness, shear stress, and endothelial activation via YAP mechanobiology. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1944322
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10320742
Journal Name:
Lab on a Chip
Volume:
21
Issue:
9
ISSN:
1473-0197
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The lymphatic vascular function is regulated by pulsatile shear stresses through signaling mediated by intracellular calcium [Ca 2+ ] i . Further, the intracellular calcium dynamics mediates signaling between lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) and muscle cells (LMCs), including the lymphatic tone and contractility. Although calcium signaling has been characterized on LEC monolayers under uniform or step changes in shear stress, these dynamics have not been revealed in LMCs under physiologically-relevant co-culture conditions with LECs or under pulsatile flow. In this study, a cylindrical organ-on-chip platform of the lymphatic vessel (Lymphangion-Chip) consisting of a lumen formed with axially-aligned LECs co-cultured with transversally wrapped layers of LMCs was exposed to step changes or pulsatile shear stress, as often experienced in vivo physiologically or pathologically. Through real-time analysis of intracellular calcium [Ca 2+ ] i release, the device reveals the pulsatile shear-dependent biological coupling between LECs and LMCs. Upon step shear, both cell types undergo a relatively rapid rise in [Ca 2+ ] i followed by a gradual decay. Importantly, under pulsatile flow, analysis of the calcium signal also reveals a secondary sinusoid within the LECs and LMCs that is very close to the flow frequency. Finally, LMCs directly influence the LEC calciummore »dynamics both under step changes in shear and under pulsatile flow, demonstrating a coupling of LEC–LMC signaling. In conclusion, the Lymphangion-Chip is able to illustrate that intracellular calcium [Ca 2+ ] i in lymphatic vascular cells is dependent on pulsatile shear rate and therefore, serves as an analytical biomarker of mechanotransduction within LECs and LMCs, and functional consequences.« less
  2. YAP/TAZ is a master regulator of mechanotransduction whose functions rely on translocation from the cytoplasm to the nucleus in response to diverse physical cues. Substrate stiffness, substrate dimensionality, and cell shape are all input signals for YAP/TAZ, and through this pathway, regulate critical cellular functions and tissue homeostasis. Yet, the relative contributions of each biophysical signal and the mechanisms by which they synergistically regulate YAP/TAZ in realistic tissue microenvironments that provide multiplexed input signals remain unclear. For example, in simple two-dimensional culture, YAP/TAZ nuclear localization correlates strongly with substrate stiffness, while in three-dimensional (3D) environments, YAP/TAZ translocation can increase with stiffness, decrease with stiffness, or remain unchanged. Here, we develop a spatial model of YAP/TAZ translocation to enable quantitative analysis of the relationships between substrate stiffness, substrate dimensionality, and cell shape. Our model couples cytosolic stiffness to nuclear mechanics to replicate existing experimental trends, and extends beyond current data to predict that increasing substrate activation area through changes in culture dimensionality, while conserving cell volume, forces distinct shape changes that result in nonlinear effect on YAP/TAZ nuclear localization. Moreover, differences in substrate activation area versus total membrane area can account for counterintuitive trends in YAP/TAZ nuclear localization in 3D culture.more »Based on this multiscale investigation of the different system features of YAP/TAZ nuclear translocation, we predict that how a cell reads its environment is a complex information transfer function of multiple mechanical and biochemical factors. These predictions reveal a few design principles of cellular and tissue engineering for YAP/TAZ mechanotransduction.

    « less
  3. Pulmonary arterial adventitial fibroblasts (PAAFs) are important regulators of fibrotic vascular remodeling during the progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a disease that currently has no effective anti-fibrotic treatments. We conducted in-vitro experiments in PAAFs cultured on hydrogels attached to custom-made equibiaxial stretchers at 10% stretch and substrate stiffnesses representing the mechanical conditions of mild and severe stages of PAH. The expression of collagens α(1)I and α(1)III and elastin messenger RNAs (Col1a1, Col3a1, Eln) were upregulated by increased stretch and substrate stiffness, while lysyl oxidase-like 1 and α-smooth muscle actin messenger RNAs (Loxl1, Acta2) were only significantly upregulated when the cells were grown on matrices with an elevated stiffness representative of mild PAH but not on a stiffness representative of severe PAH. Fibronectin messenger RNA (Fn1) levels were significantly induced by increased substrate stiffness and transiently upregulated by stretch at 4 h, but was not significantly altered by stretch at 24 h. We modified our published computational network model of the signaling pathways that regulate profibrotic gene expression in PAAFs to allow for differential regulation of mechanically-sensitive nodes by stretch and stiffness. When the model was modified so that stiffness activated integrin β3, the Macrophage Stimulating 1 or 2 (MST1\2)more »kinases, angiotensin II (Ang II), transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), and syndecan-4, and stretch-regulated integrin β3, MST1\2, Ang II, and the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel, the model correctly predicted the upregulation of all six genes by increased stiffness and the observed responses to stretch in five out of six genes, although it could not replicate the non-monotonic effects of stiffness on Loxl1 and Acta2 expression. Blocking Ang II Receptor Type 1 (AT1R) with losartan in-vitro uncovered an interaction between the effects of stretch and stiffness and angiotensin-independent activation of Fn1 expression by stretch in PAAFs grown on 3-kPa matrices. This novel combination of in-vitro and in-silico models of PAAF profibrotic cell signaling in response to altered mechanical conditions may help identify regulators of vascular adventitial remodeling due to changes in stretch and matrix stiffness that occur during the progression of PAH in-vivo.« less
  4. The pathophysiology of several lymphatic diseases, such as lymphedema, depends on the function of lymphangions that drive lymph flow. Even though the signaling between the two main cellular components of a lymphangion, endothelial cells (LECs) and muscle cells (LMCs), is responsible for crucial lymphatic functions, there are no in vitro models that have included both cell types. Here, a fabrication technique (gravitational lumen patterning or GLP) is developed to create a lymphangion-chip. This organ-on-chip consists of co-culture of a monolayer of endothelial lumen surrounded by multiple and uniformly thick layers of muscle cells. The platform allows construction of a wide range of luminal diameters and muscular layer thicknesses, thus providing a toolbox to create variable anatomy. In this device, lymphatic muscle cells align circumferentially while endothelial cells aligned axially under flow, as only observed in vivo in the past. This system successfully characterizes the dynamics of cell size, density, growth, alignment, and intercellular gap due to co-culture and shear. Finally, exposure to pro-inflammatory cytokines reveals that the device could facilitate the regulation of endothelial barrier function through the lymphatic muscle cells. Therefore, this bioengineered platform is suitable for use in preclinical research of lymphatic and blood mechanobiology, inflammation, and translationalmore »outcomes.« less
  5. Macrophages are innate immune cells that adhere to the extracellular matrix within tissues. However, how matrix properties regulate their function remains poorly understood. Here, we report that the adhesive microenvironment tunes the macrophage inflammatory response through the transcriptional coactivator YAP. We find that adhesion to soft hydrogels reduces inflammation when compared to adhesion on stiff materials and is associated with reduced YAP expression and nuclear localization. Substrate stiffness and cytoskeletal polymerization, but not adhesive confinement nor contractility, regulate YAP localization. Furthermore, depletion of YAP inhibits macrophage inflammation, whereas overexpression of active YAP increases inflammation. Last, we show in vivo that soft materials reduce expression of inflammatory markers and YAP in surrounding macrophages when compared to stiff materials. Together, our studies identify YAP as a key molecule for controlling inflammation and sensing stiffness in macrophages and may have broad implications in the regulation of macrophages in health and disease.