Fibroblast migration is an integral component of biological processes such as wound healing and embryogenesis. Previous experiments examining fibroblast locomotion from tissue explants have shown that migrating fibroblasts lack, or contain only transient, focal adhesions (focal contacts). Focal adhesions are specialized regions of tight cell-matrix interaction, assembled by a complex process of transmembrane signalling. Although the explant model has been used for studying several aspects of fibroblast locomotion, it is limited by the lack of control over migration, and only a small percentage of the cells actually locomoting. Therefore, we have developed an in vitro model for cultured fibroblast strains where the presence or absence of focal adhesions can be manipulated, and in the latter case 70% of these cells become locomotory. The stimulus used to decrease the percentage of cells containing focal adhesions, and hence enhance locomotion, was newborn rat heart-conditioned medium (HCM). Addition of HCM to rat embryo fibroblasts induced both chemokinesis and chemotaxis. Cells disassembled focal adhesions on a variety of extracellular matrix substrates after approximately 6 h of stimulation with HCM; conversely, removal of HCM promoted reformation of focal adhesions within 12-24 h. HCM-stimulated fibroblasts which lacked focal adhesions concomitantly lacked F-actin stress fibers and focal concentrations of vinculin and talin. Therefore, fibroblast migration can be readily controlled in an on-off manner through conditioned medium, which influences the absence or presence of focal adhesions.
Keywords: 3T3 Cells; Animals; Animals, Newborn; Cell Adhesion; Cell Movement; Cells, Cultured; Chemotaxis; Culture Media, Conditioned; Cytoskeleton; Embryo, Mammalian; Extracellular Matrix; Fibroblasts; Gingiva; Heart; Humans; Mice; Myocardium; Rats; Signal Transduction; Vinculin