Effects of epidermal growth factor on fibroblast migration through biomimetic hydrogels.
We have previously reported on the development and use of synthetic hydrogel extracellular matrix (ECM) analogues that can be used to study the mechanisms of migration. These biomimetic hydrogels consist of bioinert poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate derivatives with proteolytically degradable peptide sequences included in the backbone of the polymer and adhesion peptide sequences grafted into the network. Cells adhere to the hydrogel via interaction between the grafted adhesion ligands and receptors on the cell surface. The cells migrate through the three-dimensional system by secreting the appropriate proteolytic enzymes, which are involved in cell migration and are targeted to the peptide sequences incorporated in the backbone of the polymer. It was observed that cell migration has a biphasic dependence on adhesion ligand concentration, with optimal migration at intermediate ligand levels. In this study, we demonstrate that we can covalently attach epidermal growth factor (EGF) to PEG and graft them into the hydrogels. It was observed that EGF when tethered maintained mitogenic activity. It was also observed that fibroblast migration significantly increased in the presence of the grafted EGF through the collagenase-sensitive hydrogels. In addition, the increase in migration was found to be independent from the proliferative response of the cells. These synthetic ECM analogues allow one to systematically control identities and concentrations of biomolecules and are useful tools to study mechanisms of cell migration.
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