Faculty Advisor

Germano S. Iannacchione

Faculty Advisor

Qi Wen

Faculty Advisor

Nancy A. Burnham

Abstract

Tissue cells exhibit varying responses according to the stiffness of their extracellular matrix (ECM). The mechanism of this stiffness sensing is not fully understood; however, it is known that cells probe stiffness by applying intracellular force to the ECM via integrin-mediated focal adhesions. The bonds between integrins and ECM have been described as “catch bonds�, and it is unclear how ECM viscoelasticity affects these bonds. We have observed the effects of ECM stiffness on the binding strength of integrins to ECM ligands by measuring the dissociation force of individual integrin-ligand bonds of 3T3 fibroblasts on collagen-coated polyacrylamide gels using atomic force microscopy. Results show that integrins exhibit higher rates of activation on stiff substrates. Furthermore, increased matrix stiffness results in the occurrence of larger, multi-bond dissociation events, which suggests that substrate stiffness may affect the cellular response by promoting integrin clustering as well as by modulating the maximum possible force between individual integrins and the ECM.

Publisher

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name

MS

Department

Physics

Project Type

Thesis

Date Accepted

2017-01-19

Accessibility

Unrestricted

Subjects

Atomic Force Microscopy, cell signaling, Cell adhesion

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