Matrix stiffness-modulated proliferation and secretory function of the airway smooth muscle cells

Artem Shkumatov, Michael Thompson, Kyoung M. Choi, Delphine Sicard, Kwanghyun Baek, Dong Hyun Kim, Daniel J. Tschumperlin, Y. S. Prakash, Hyunjoon Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Multiple pulmonary conditions are characterized by an abnormal misbalance between various tissue components, for example, an increase in the fibrous connective tissue and loss/increase in extracellular matrix proteins (ECM). Such tissue remodeling may adversely impact physiological function of airway smooth muscle cells (ASMCs) responsible for contraction of airways and release of a variety of bioactive molecules. However, few efforts have been made to understand the potentially significant impact of tissue remodeling on ASMCs. Therefore, this study reports how ASMCs respond to a change in mechanical stiffness of a matrix, to which ASMCs adhere because mechanical stiffness of the remodeled airways is often different from the physiological stiffness. Accordingly, using atomic force microscopy (AFM) measurements, we found that the elastic modulus of the mouse bronchus has an arithmetic mean of 23.1 ± 14 kPa (SD) (median 18.6 kPa). By culturing ASMCs on collagen-conjugated polyacrylamide hydrogels with controlled elastic moduli, we found that gels designed to be softer than average airway tissue significantly increased cellular secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Conversely, gels stiffer than average airways stimulated cell proliferation, while reducing VEGF secretion and agonist-induced calcium responses of ASMCs. These dependencies of cellular activities on elastic modulus of the gel were correlated with changes in the expression of integrin-β1 and integrin-linked kinase (ILK). Overall, the results of this study demonstrate that changes in matrix mechanics alter cell proliferation, calcium signaling, and proangiogenic functions in ASMCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L1125-L1135
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Airways smooth muscle cells
  • Asthma
  • Hydrogel
  • Integrin
  • Matrix stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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