Dendritic fibroblasts in three-dimensional collagen matrices

Frederick Grinnell, Chin Han Ho, Elisa Tamariz, David J. Lee, Gabriella Skuta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Cell motility determines form and function of multicellular organisms. Most studies on fibroblast motility have been carried out using cells on the surfaces of culture dishes. In situ, however, the environment for fibroblasts is the three-dimensional extracellular matrix. In the current research, we studied the morphology and motility of human fibroblasts embedded in floating collagen matrices at a cell density below that required for global matrix remodeling (i.e., contraction). Under these conditions, cells were observed to project and retract a dendritic network of extensions. These extensions contained microtubule cores with actin concentrated at the tips resembling growth cones. Platelet-derived growth factor promoted formation of the network; lysophosphatidic acid stimulated its retraction in a Rho and Rho kinase-dependent manner. The dendritic network also supported metabolic coupling between cells. We suggest that the dendritic network provides a mechanism by which fibroblasts explore and become interconnected to each other in three-dimensional space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-395
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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