International Journal of Medical Sciences

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23 February 2019

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Int J Med Sci 2018; 15(3):257-268. doi:10.7150/ijms.21620

Research Paper

Effects of Matrix Stiffness on the Morphology, Adhesion, Proliferation and Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Meiyu Sun, Guangfan Chi, Pengdong Li, Shuang Lv, Juanjuan Xu, Ziran Xu, Yuhan Xia, Ye Tan, Jiayi Xu, Lisha Li, Yulin Li

The Key Laboratory of Pathobiology, Ministry of Education, Norman Bethune College of Medicine, Jilin University, 130021, People's Republic of China


BMMSCs have drawn great interest in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine attributable to their multi-lineage differentiation capacity. Increasing evidence has shown that the mechanical stiffness of extracellular matrix is a critical determinant for stem cell behaviors. However, it remains unknown how matrix stiffness influences MSCs commitment with changes in cell morphology, adhesion, proliferation, self-renewal and differentiation. We employed fibronectin coated polyacrylamide hydrogels with variable stiffnesses ranging from 13 to 68 kPa to modulate the mechanical environment of BMMSCs and found that the morphology and adhesion of BMMSCs were highly dependent on mechanical stiffness. Cells became more spread and more adhesive on substrates of higher stiffness. Similarly, the proliferation of BMMSCs increased as stiffness increased. Sox2 expression was lower during 4h to 1 week on the 13-16 kPa and 62-68 kPa, in contrast, it was higher during 4h to 1 week on the 48-53 kPa. Oct4 expression on 13-16 kPa was higher than 48-53 kPa at 4h, and it has no significant differences at other time point among three different stiffness groups. On 62-68 kPa, BMMSCs were able to be induced toward osteogenic phenotype and generated a markedly high level of RUNX2, ALP, and Osteopontin. The cells exhibited a polygonal morphology and larger spreading area. These results suggest that matrix stiffness modulates commitment of BMMSCs. Our findings may eventually aid in the development of novel, effective biomaterials for the applications in tissue engineering.

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How to cite this article:
Sun M, Chi G, Li P, Lv S, Xu J, Xu Z, Xia Y, Tan Y, Xu J, Li L, Li Y. Effects of Matrix Stiffness on the Morphology, Adhesion, Proliferation and Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Int J Med Sci 2018; 15(3):257-268. doi:10.7150/ijms.21620. Available from