Differential Regulation of Neurite Outgrowth and Growth Cone Morphology by 3D Fibronectin and Fibronectin-Collagen Extracellular Matrices

Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Feb;59(2):1112-1123. doi: 10.1007/s12035-021-02637-x. Epub 2021 Nov 30.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a critical role in development, homeostasis, and regeneration of tissue structures and functions. Cell interactions with the ECM are dynamic and cells respond to ECM remodeling by changes in morphology and motility. During nerve regeneration, the ECM facilitates neurite outgrowth and guides axons with target specificity. Decellularized ECMs retain structural, biochemical, and biomechanical cues of native ECM and have the potential to replace damaged matrix to support cell activities during tissue repair. To determine the ECM components that contribute to nerve regeneration, we analyzed neuron-ECM interactions on two types of decellularized ECM. One matrix was composed primarily of fibronectin (FN) fibrils, and the other FN-rich ECM also contained significant numbers of type I collagen (COL I) fibrils. Using primary neurons dissociated from superior cervical ganglion (SCG) explants, we found that neurites were extended on both matrices without a significant difference in average neurite length after 24 h. The most distinctive features of neurites on the FN matrix were numerous short actin-filled protrusions and longer branches extending from neurite shafts. Very few protrusions and branches were detected on FN-COL matrix. Growth cone morphologies also differed with mostly filopodial growth cones on FN matrix whereas on FN-COL matrix, equivalent numbers of filopodial and slender growth cones were formed. Our work provides new information about how changes in major components of the ECM during tissue repair modulate neuron and growth cone morphologies and helps to define the contributions of neuron-ECM interactions to nerve development and regeneration.

Keywords: Decellularized ECM; Fibronectin; Growth cone; Neurite morphology; SCG neurons.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen* / metabolism
  • Decellularized Extracellular Matrix
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Fibronectins* / metabolism
  • Growth Cones* / metabolism
  • Neurites / metabolism
  • Neuronal Outgrowth* / physiology


  • Decellularized Extracellular Matrix
  • Fibronectins
  • Collagen