Matrix composition and mechanics direct proangiogenic signaling from mesenchymal stem cells

Tissue Eng Part A. 2014 Oct;20(19-20):2737-45. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2013.0661. Epub 2014 May 12.


The secretion of trophic factors that promote angiogenesis from mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is a promising cell-based therapeutic treatment. However, clinical efficacy has proved variable, likely on account of ill-defined cell delivery formulations and the inherent complexity of cellular secretion. Here we show how controlling the mechanical properties and protein composition of the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding MSCs can guide proangiogenic signaling. Conditioned media from MSCs adherent to polyacrylamide hydrogel functionalized with fibronectin, collagen I, or laminin was applied to 3D matrigel cultures containing human microvascular endothelial cells (HMVECs). The degree of tubulogenesis in HMVECs is shown to depend on both the substrate rigidity and matrix protein composition. MSCs cultured on fibronectin-modified hydrogels show a stiffness dependence in proangiogenic signaling with maximum influence on tubulogenesis observed from 40 kPa conditioned media, twofold higher than commercially available cocktails of growth factors. Quantitative real-time-polymerase chain reaction reveals stiffness-dependent expression of multiple factors involved in angiogenesis that corroborate the functional tubulogenesis assay. Restricting cell spreading with micropatterned surfaces attenuates the conditioned media effects; however, small-molecule inhibitors of actomyosin contractility do not significantly reduce the functional outcome. This work demonstrates how controlling matrix rigidity and protein composition can influence the secretory profile of MSCs. Model systems that deconstruct the physical and biochemical cues involved in MSC secretion may assist in the design of hydrogel biomaterials for cell-based therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic*
  • Stress, Mechanical*


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Hydrogels