Substratum topography modulates corneal fibroblast to Myofibroblast transformation

Kathern E. Myrna, Rima Mendonsa, Paul Russell, Simon A. Pot, Sara J. Liliensiek, James V. Jester, Paul F. Nealey, Donald Brown, Christopher J Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


PURPOSE. The transition of corneal fibroblasts to the myofibroblast phenotype is known to be important in wound healing. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of topographic cues on TGFβ-induced myofibroblast transformation of corneal cells. METHODS. Rabbit corneal fibroblasts were cultured on nanopatterned surfaces having topographic features of varying sizes. Cells were cultured in media containing TGFβ at concentrations ranging from 0 to 10 ng/mL. RNA and protein were collected from cells cultured on topographically patterned and planar substrates and analyzed for the myofibroblast marker α-smooth muscle actin (αSMA) and Smad7 expression by quantitative real time PCR. Western blot and immunocytochemistry analysis for αSMA were also performed. RESULTS. Cells grown on patterned surfaces demonstrated significantly reduced levels of αSMA (P < 0.002) compared with planar surfaces when exposed to TGFβ; the greatest reduction was seen on the 1400 nm surface. Smad7 mRNA expression was significantly greater on all patterned surfaces exposed to TGFβ (P < 0.002), whereas cells grown on planar surfaces showed equal or reduced levels of Smad7. Western blot analysis and αSMA immunocytochemical staining demonstrated reduced transition to the myofibroblast phenotype on the 1400 nm surface when compared with cells on a planar surface. CONCLUSIONS. These data demonstrate that nanoscale topographic features modulate TGFβ-induced myofibroblast differentiation and αSMA expression, possibly through upregulation of Smad7. It is therefore proposed that in the wound environment,native nanotopographic cues assist in stabilizing the keratocyte/fibroblast phenotype while pathologic microenvironmental alterations may be permissive for increased myofibroblast differentiation and the development of fibrosis and corneal haze.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-816
Number of pages6
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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