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Dynamic light-responsive RhoA activity regulates mechanosensitive stem cell fate decision in 3D matrices

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Biomater Adv. 2024 Mar 25;160:213836. doi: 10.1016/j.bioadv.2024.213836. Online ahead of print.


The behavior of stem cells is regulated by mechanical cues in their niche that continuously vary due to extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling, pulsated mechanical stress exerted by blood flow, and/or cell migration. However, it is still unclear how dynamics of mechanical cues influence stem cell lineage commitment, especially in a 3D microenvironment where mechanosensing differs from that in a 2D microenvironment. In the present study, we investigated how temporally varying mechanical signaling regulates expression of the early growth response 1 gene (Egr1), which we recently discovered to be a 3D matrix-specific mediator of mechanosensitive neural stem cell (NSC) lineage commitment. Specifically, we temporally controlled the activity of Ras homolog family member A (RhoA), which is known to have a central role in mechanotransduction, using our previously developed Arabidopsis thaliana cryptochrome-2-based optoactivation system. Interestingly, pulsed RhoA activation induced Egr1 upregulation in stiff 3D gels only, whereas static light stimulation induced an increase in Egr1 expression across a wide range of 3D gel stiffnesses. Actin assembly inhibition limited Egr1 upregulation upon RhoA activation, implying that RhoA signaling requires an actin-involved process to upregulate Egr1. Consistently, static-light RhoA activation rather than pulsed-light activation restricted neurogenesis in soft gels. Our findings indicate that the dynamics of RhoA activation influence Egr1-mediated stem cell fate within 3D matrices in a matrix stiffness-dependent manner.

PMID:38599042 | DOI:10.1016/j.bioadv.2024.213836

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