Cardiac tissue development and pathology have been shown to depend sensitively on microenvironmental mechanical factors, such as extracellular matrix stiffness, in both in vivo and in vitro systems. We present a novel quantitative approach to assess cardiac structure and function by extending the classical traction force microscopy technique to tissue-level preparations. Using this system, we investigated the relationship between contractile proficiency and metabolism in neonate rat ventricular myocytes (NRVM) cultured on gels with stiffness mimicking soft immature (1 kPa), normal healthy (13 kPa), and stiff diseased (90 kPa) cardiac microenvironments. We found that tissues engineered on the softest gels generated the least amount of stress and had the smallest work output. Conversely, cardiomyocytes in tissues engineered on healthy- and disease-mimicking gels generated significantly higher stresses, with the maximal contractile work measured in NRVM engineered on gels of normal stiffness. Interestingly, although tissues on soft gels exhibited poor stress generation and work production, their basal metabolic respiration rate was significantly more elevated than in other groups, suggesting a highly ineffective coupling between energy production and contractile work output. Our novel platform can thus be utilized to quantitatively assess the mechanotransduction pathways that initiate tissue-level structural and functional remodeling in response to substrate stiffness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)