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      Patterning of human epidermal stem cells on undulating elastomer substrates reflects differences in cell stiffness

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          Abstract

          In human skin the junction between epidermis and dermis undulates, the width and depth of the undulations varying with age and disease. When primary human epidermal keratinocytes are seeded on collagen-coated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) elastomer substrates that mimic the epidermal-dermal interface, the stem cells become patterned by 24 h, resembling their organisation in living skin. We found that cell density and nuclear height were higher at the base than the tips of the PDMS features. Cells on the tips not only expressed higher levels of the stem cell marker β1 integrin but also had elevated E-cadherin, Desmoglein 3 and F-actin than cells at the base. In contrast, levels of the transcriptional cofactor MAL were higher at the base. AFM measurements established that the Young’s modulus of cells on the tips was lower than on the base or cells on flat substrates. The differences in cell stiffness were dependent on Rho kinase activity and intercellular adhesion. On flat substrates the Young’s modulus of calcium-dependent intercellular junctions was higher than that of the cell body, again dependent on Rho kinase. Cell patterning was influenced by the angle of the slope on undulating substrates. Our observations are consistent with the concept that epidermal stem cell patterning is dependent on mechanical forces exerted at intercellular junctions in response to undulations in the epidermal-dermal interface.

          Statement of significance

          In human skin the epidermal-dermal junction undulates and epidermal stem cells are patterned according to their position. We previously created collagen-coated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) elastomer substrates that mimic the undulations and provide sufficient topographical information for stem cells to cluster on the tips. Here we show that the stiffness of cells on the tips is lower than cells on the base. The differences in cell stiffness depend on Rho kinase activity and intercellular adhesion. We propose that epidermal stem cell patterning is determined by mechanical forces exerted at intercellular junctions in response to the slope of the undulations.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Modulating the stem cell niche for tissue regeneration.

          The field of regenerative medicine holds considerable promise for treating diseases that are currently intractable. Although many researchers are adopting the strategy of cell transplantation for tissue repair, an alternative approach to therapy is to manipulate the stem cell microenvironment, or niche, to facilitate repair by endogenous stem cells. The niche is highly dynamic, with multiple opportunities for intervention. These include administration of small molecules, biologics or biomaterials that target specific aspects of the niche, such as cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions, to stimulate expansion or differentiation of stem cells, or to cause reversion of differentiated cells to stem cells. Nevertheless, there are several challenges in targeting the niche therapeutically, not least that of achieving specificity of delivery and responses. We envisage that successful treatments in regenerative medicine will involve different combinations of factors to target stem cells and niche cells, applied at different times to effect recovery according to the dynamics of stem cell-niche interactions.
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            Actin and serum response factor transduce physical cues from the microenvironment to regulate epidermal stem cell fate decisions.

            Epidermal homeostasis depends on a balance between stem cell renewal and differentiation and is regulated by extrinsic signals from the extracellular matrix (ECM). A powerful approach to analysing the pathways involved is to engineer single-cell microenvironments in which individual variables are precisely and quantitatively controlled. Here, we employ micropatterned surfaces to identify the signalling pathways by which restricted ECM contact triggers human epidermal stem cells to initiate terminal differentiation. On small (20 microm diameter) circular islands, keratinocytes remained rounded, and differentiated at higher frequency than cells that could spread on large (50 microm diameter) islands. Differentiation did not depend on ECM composition or density. Rather, the actin cytoskeleton mediated shape-induced differentiation by regulating serum response factor (SRF) transcriptional activity. Knockdown of SRF or its co-factor MAL inhibited differentiation, whereas overexpression of MAL stimulated SRF activity and involucrin expression. SRF target genes FOS and JUNB were also required for differentiation: c-Fos mediated serum responsiveness, whereas JunB was regulated by actin and MAL. Our findings demonstrate how biophysical cues are transduced into transcriptional responses that determine epidermal cell fate.
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              Skin stem cells: rising to the surface

               Elaine Fuchs (2008)
              The skin epidermis and its appendages provide a protective barrier that is impermeable to harmful microbes and also prevents dehydration. To perform their functions while being confronted with the physicochemical traumas of the environment, these tissues undergo continual rejuvenation through homeostasis, and, in addition, they must be primed to undergo wound repair in response to injury. The skin's elixir for maintaining tissue homeostasis, regenerating hair, and repairing the epidermis after injury is its stem cells, which reside in the adult hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and epidermis. Stem cells have the remarkable capacity to both self-perpetuate and also give rise to the differentiating cells that constitute one or more tissues. In recent years, scientists have begun to uncover the properties of skin stem cells and unravel the mysteries underlying their remarkable capacity to perform these feats. In this paper, I outline the basic lineages of the skin epithelia and review some of the major findings about mammalian skin epithelial stem cells that have emerged in the past five years.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Acta Biomater
                Acta Biomater
                Acta Biomaterialia
                Elsevier
                1742-7061
                1878-7568
                15 March 2019
                15 March 2019
                : 87
                : 256-264
                Affiliations
                [a ]Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, King's College London, 28th Floor, Tower Wing, Guy's Hospital, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9RT, United Kingdom
                [b ]Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom
                [c ]Department of Physics and Randall Institute of Cell and Molecular Biophysics, King’s College London, WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. fiona.watt@ 123456kcl.ac.uk
                Article
                S1742-7061(19)30085-6
                10.1016/j.actbio.2019.01.063
                6401207
                30710711
                3c6d43fa-5db1-4107-8e06-3398efdff6c5
                © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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