Cell force-mediated matrix reorganization underlies multicellular network assembly

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 9;9(1):12. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37044-1.


Vasculogenesis is the de novo formation of a vascular network from individual endothelial progenitor cells occurring during embryonic development, organogenesis, and adult neovascularization. Vasculogenesis can be mimicked and studied in vitro using network formation assays, in which endothelial cells (ECs) spontaneously form capillary-like structures when seeded in the appropriate microenvironment. While the biochemical regulators of network formation have been well studied using these assays, the role of mechanical and topographical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is less understood. Here, we utilized both natural and synthetic fibrous materials to better understand how physical attributes of the ECM influence the assembly of EC networks. Our results reveal that active cell-mediated matrix recruitment through actomyosin force generation occurs concurrently with network formation on Matrigel, a reconstituted basement membrane matrix regularly used to promote EC networks, and on synthetic matrices composed of electrospun dextran methacrylate (DexMA) fibers. Furthermore, modulating physical attributes of DexMA matrices that impair matrix recruitment consequently inhibited the formation of cellular networks. These results suggest an iterative process in which dynamic cell-induced changes to the physical microenvironment reciprocally modulate cell behavior to guide the formation and stabilization of multicellular networks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Capillaries / growth & development
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Culture Techniques
  • Dextrans / chemistry
  • Drug Combinations
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology*
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Laminin / chemistry
  • Methacrylates / chemistry
  • Morphogenesis
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Proteoglycans / chemistry


  • Dextrans
  • Drug Combinations
  • Laminin
  • Methacrylates
  • Proteoglycans
  • methacrylated dextran
  • matrigel
  • Collagen