Fibroblasts synthesize, organize, and maintain connective tissues during development and in response to injury and fibrotic disease. Studies on cells in three-dimensional collagen matrices have shown that fibroblasts switch between proliferative and quiescence phenotypes, depending upon whether matrices are attached or floating during matrix remodeling. Previous work showed that cell signaling through the ERK pathway was decreased in fibroblasts in floating matrices. In the current research, we extend the previous findings to show that serum stimulation of fibroblasts in floating matrices does not result in ERK translocation to the nucleus. In addition, there was decreased serum activation of upstream members of the ERK signaling pathway, MEK and Raf, even though Ras became GTP loaded. The findings suggest that quiescence of fibroblasts in floating collagen matrices may result from a defect in Ras coupling to its downstream effectors.
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