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  1. Microarchitectural cues drive aligned fibrillar collagen deposition in vivo and in biomaterial scaffolds, but the cell-signaling events that underlie this process are not well understood. Utilizing a multicellular patterning model system that allows for observation of intracellular signaling events during collagen matrix assembly, we investigated the role of calcium (Ca2+) signaling in human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) during this process. We observed spontaneous Ca2+oscillations in MSCs during fibrillar collagen assembly, and hypothesized that the transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) ion channel, a mechanosensitive Ca2+-permeable channel, may regulate this signaling. Inhibition of TRPV4 nearly abolished Ca2+signaling at initial stages of collagen matrix assembly, while at later times had reduced but significant effects. Importantly, blocking TRPV4 activity dramatically reduced aligned collagen fibril assembly; conversely, activating TRPV4 accelerated aligned collagen formation. TRPV4-dependent Ca2+oscillations were found to be independent of pattern shape or subpattern cell location, suggesting this signaling mechanism is necessary for aligned collagen formation but not sufficient in the absence of physical (microarchitectural) cues that force multicellular alignment. As cell-generated mechanical forces are known to be critical to the matrix assembly process, we examined the role of TRPV4-mediated Ca2+signaling in force generated across the load-bearing focal adhesion protein vinculin within MSCs using an FRET-based tension sensor. Inhibiting TRPV4 decreased tensile force across vinculin, whereas TRPV4 activation caused a dynamic unloading and reloading of vinculin. Together, these findings suggest TRPV4 activity regulates forces at cell-matrix adhesions and is critical to aligned collagen matrix assembly by MSCs.

     
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  2. Abstract

    While it is well known that mechanical signals can either promote or disrupt intervertebral disc (IVD) homeostasis, the molecular mechanisms for transducing mechanical stimuli are not fully understood. The transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4) ion channel activated in isolated IVD cells initiates extracellular matrix (ECM) gene expression, while TRPV4 ablation reduces cytokine production in response to circumferential stretching. However, the role of TRPV4 on ECM maintenance during tissue‐level mechanical loading remains unknown. Using an organ culture model, we modulated TRPV4 function over both short‐ (hours) and long‐term (days) and evaluated the IVDs' response. Activating TRPV4 with the agonist GSK101 resulted in a Ca2+flux propagating across the cells within the IVD. Nuclear factor (NF)‐κB signaling in the IVD peaked at 6 h following TRPV4 activation that subsequently resulted in higher interleukin (IL)‐6 production at 7 days. These cellular responses were concomitant with the accumulation of glycosaminoglycans and increased hydration in the nucleus pulposus that culminated in higher stiffness of the IVD. Sustained compressive loading of the IVD resulted in elevated NF‐κB activity, IL‐6 and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) production, and degenerative changes to the ECM. TRPV4 inhibition using GSK205 during loading mitigated the changes in inflammatory cytokines, protected against IVD degeneration, but could not prevent ECM disorganization due to mechanical damage in the annulus fibrosus. These results indicate TRPV4 plays an important role in both short‐ and long‐term adaptations of the IVD to mechanical loading. The modulation of TRPV4 may be a possible therapeutic for preventing load‐induced IVD degeneration.

     
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  3. Abstract

    The differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to prescribed cell fates enables the engineering of patient-specific tissue types, such as hyaline cartilage, for applications in regenerative medicine, disease modeling, and drug screening. In many cases, however, these differentiation approaches are poorly controlled and generate heterogeneous cell populations. Here, we demonstrate cartilaginous matrix production in three unique hiPSC lines using a robust and reproducible differentiation protocol. To purify chondroprogenitors (CPs) produced by this protocol, we engineered a COL2A1-GFP knock-in reporter hiPSC line by CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. Purified CPs demonstrated an improved chondrogenic capacity compared with unselected populations. The ability to enrich for CPs and generate homogenous matrix without contaminating cell types will be essential for regenerative and disease modeling applications. Stem Cells  2019;37:65–76

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