The extracellular matrix (ECM) is thought to be an essential component of tissue scaffolding and engineering because it fulfills fundamental functions related to cell adhesion, migration, and three-dimensional organization. Natural ECM preparations, however, are challenging to work with because they are comprised of macromolecules that are large and insoluble in their functional state. Functional fragments of ECM macromolecules are a viable answer to this challenge, as demonstrated by the RGD-based engineered scaffolds, where the tri-peptide, Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD), represents the minimal functional unit of fibronectin and related ECM. Laminins (Ln) are main components of epithelial tissues, since they enter into the composition of basement membranes. Application of Ln to epithelial tissue engineering would be desirable, since they could help mimic ideal functional conditions for both lining and glandular epithelial tissues. However, functional fragments of Ln that could be used in artificial settings have not been characterized in detail. In this paper, we describe the production and application of the recombinant LG4 (rLG4) fragment of laminin-332 (Ln-332), and show that it mimics three fundamental functional properties of Ln-332: integrin-mediated cell adhesion, spreading, and migration. Adhesive structures formed by cells on rLG4 closely resemble those formed on Ln-332, as judged by microscopy-based analyses of their molecular composition. As on Ln-332, focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is phosphorylated in cells adhering to rLG4, and colocalized with other focal adhesion components. We conclude that rLG4 could be a useful substitute to recapitulate, in vitro, the tissue scaffolding properties of Ln-332.
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