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Tissue stiffening promotes keratinocyte proliferation via activation of epidermal growth factor signaling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Fiona Kenny
  • Zoe Drymoussi
  • Robin Delaine-Smith
  • Alex Kao
  • Ana Catarina Laly
  • Martin Knight
  • Michael Philpott
  • John Connelly
Tissue biomechanics regulate a wide range of cellular functions, but the influences on epidermal homeostasis and repair remain unclear. Here, we examined the role of extracellular matrix stiffness on human keratinocyte behavior using elastomeric substrates with defined mechanical properties. Increased matrix stiffness beyond normal physiologic levels promoted keratinocyte proliferation but did not alter the ability to self-renew or terminally differentiate. Activation of epidermal growth factor (EGF) signaling mediated the proliferative response to matrix stiffness and depended on focal adhesion assembly and cytoskeletal tension. Comparison of normal skin with keloid scar tissue further revealed an up-regulation of EGF signaling within the epidermis of stiffened scar tissue. We conclude that matrix stiffness regulates keratinocyte proliferation independently of changes in cell fate and is mediated by EGF signaling. These findings provide mechanistic insights into how keratinocytes sense and respond to their mechanical environment and suggest that matrix biomechanics may play a role in the pathogenesis keloid scar formation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Early online date18 Apr 2018
Publication statusEarly online - 18 Apr 2018


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