Substrate stiffness regulates cell mechanics and lineage


Consistent apparent Young’s modulus of human embryonic stem cells and derived cell types stabilized by substrate stiffness regulation promotes lineage specificity maintenance" has been reported on Cell Regeneration. Congratulations to Anqi Guo and Bingjie Wang!

Here, we show that the AYM of cells changed dynamically during passaging and proliferation on substrates with different stiffness. Moreover, the same change in substrate stiffness caused different patterns of AYM change in epithelial and mesenchymal cell types. Embryonic stem cells and their derived progenitor cells exhibited distinguishing AYM changes in response to different substrate stiffness that had significant effects on their maintenance of pluripotency and/or lineage-specific characteristics. On substrates that were too rigid or too soft, fluctuations in AYM occurred during cell passaging and proliferation that led to a loss in lineage specificity. On a substrate with ‘optimal’ stiffness (i.e., 3.5 kPa), the AYM was maintained at a constant level that was consistent with the parental cells during passaging and proliferation and led to preservation of lineage specificity. The effects of substrate stiffness on AYM and downstream cell fate were correlated with intracellular cytoskeletal organization and nuclear/cytoplasmic localization of YAP.