Three-dimensional fibrillar networks reconstituted from collagen I are widely used as biomimetic scaffolds for in vitro and in vivo cell studies. Various physicochemical parameters of buffer conditions for in vitro fibril formation are well known, including pH-value, ion concentrations and temperature. However, there is a lack of a detailed understanding of reconstituting well-defined 3D network topologies, which is required to mimic specific properties of the native extracellular matrix. We screened a wide range of relevant physicochemical buffer conditions and characterized the topology of the reconstituted 3D networks in terms of mean pore size and fibril diameter. A congruent analysis of fibril formation kinetics by turbidimetry revealed the adjustment of the lateral growth phase of fibrils by buffer conditions to be key in the determination of pore size and fibril diameter of the networks. Although the kinetics of nucleation and linear growth phase were affected by buffer conditions as well, network topology was independent of those two growth phases. Overall, the results of our study provide necessary insights into how to engineer 3D collagen matrices with an independent control over topology parameters, in order to mimic in vivo tissues in in vitro experiments and tissue engineering applications.
Statement of significance: The study reports a comprehensive analysis of physicochemical conditions of buffer solutions to reconstitute defined 3D collagen I matrices. By a combined analysis of network topology, i.e., pore size and fibril diameter, and the kinetics of fibril formation we can reveal the dependence of 3D network topology on buffer conditions, such as pH-value, phosphate concentration and sodium chloride content. With those results we are now able to provide engineering strategies to independently tune the topology parameters of widely used 3D collagen scaffolds based on the buffer conditions. By that, we enable the straightforward mimicking of extracellular matrices of in vivo tissues for in vitro cell culture experiments and tissue engineering applications.
Keywords: 3D matrices; Collagen I; Fibril diameter; Pore size; Turbidimetry.
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