Substrate rigidity regulates Ca2+ oscillation via RhoA pathway in stem cells

Tae Jin Kim, Jihye Seong, Mingxing Ouyang, Jie Sun, Shaoying Lu, Pyu Hong Jun, Ning Wang, Yingxiao Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Substrate rigidity plays crucial roles in regulating cellular functions, such as cell spreading, traction forces, and stem cell differentiation. However, it is not clear how substrate rigidity influences early cell signaling events such as calcium in living cells. Using highly sensitive Ca2+ biosensors based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), we investigated the molecular mechanism by which substrate rigidity affects calcium signaling in human mesenchymal stem cells (HMSCs). Spontaneous Ca2+ oscillations were observed inside the cytoplasm and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) using the FRET biosensors targeted at subcellular locations in cells plated on rigid dishes. Lowering the substrate stiffness to 1 kPa significantly inhibited both the magnitudes and frequencies of the cytoplasmic Ca2+ oscillation in comparison to stiffer or rigid substrate. This Ca2+ oscillation was shown to be dependent on ROCK, a downstream effector molecule of RhoA, but independent of actin filaments, microtubules, myosin light chain kinase, or myosin activity. Lysophosphatidic acid, which activates RhoA, also inhibited the frequency of the Ca2+ oscillation. Consistently, either a constitutive active mutant of RhoA (RhoA-V14) or a dominant negative mutant of RhoA (RhoA-N19) inhibited the Ca2+ oscillation. Further experiments revealed that HMSCs cultured on gels with low elastic moduli displayed low RhoA activities. Therefore, our results demonstrate that RhoA and its downstream molecule ROCK may mediate the substrate rigidity-regulated Ca2+ oscillation, which determines the physiological functions of HMSCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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