Nested collagen matrices: A new model to study migration of human fibroblast populations in three dimensions

Frederick Grinnell, Lenaldo B. Rocha, Cristina Iucu, Sangmyung Rhee, Hongmei Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Fibroblast-3D collagen matrix culture provides a model system to analyze cell physiology under conditions that more closely resemble tissue than conventional 2D cell culture. Previous work has focused primarily on remodeling and contraction of collagen matrices by fibroblasts, and there has been little research on migration of cell populations within the matrix. Here, we introduce a nested collagen matrix model to analyze migration of fibroblasts in 3D collagen matrices. Nested collagen matrices were prepared by embedding contracted cell-containing matrices (also called dermal equivalents) inside cell-free matrices; migration occurred from the former to the latter. Control experiments with human dermal fragments in place of dermal equivalents confirmed the reliability of the model. Human fibroblast migration in nested collagen matrices occurred after a lag phase of 8-16 h, and cells migrating out of the inner matrices were bipolar with leading dendritic extensions. Migration was myosin II, Rho kinase and metalloproteinase-dependent but did not require plasma fibronectin. Platelet-derived growth factor but not lysophosphatidic acid or serum stimulated cell migration, although all three of these physiological agonists promote matrix remodeling and contraction. The nested collagen matrix model is a relatively easy, rapid and quantitative method to measure migration of cell populations. Our studies using this model demonstrate important differences between regulation of fibroblast migration and remodeling in collagen matrices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006


  • Contraction
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Fibronectin
  • Lysophosphatidic acid
  • Platelet-derived growth factor
  • Tissue engineering
  • Wound repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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