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Open Access Research article

β-catenin and transforming growth factor β have distinct roles regulating fibroblast cell motility and the induction of collagen lattice contraction

Raymond Poon, Saeid Amini Nik, Jessica Ahn, Laura Slade and Benjamin A Alman*

Author affiliations

Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, Toronto ON, M5G 1X8, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-38

Published: 11 May 2009

Abstract

Background

β-catenin and transforming growth factor β signaling are activated in fibroblasts during wound healing. Both signaling pathways positively regulate fibroblast proliferation during this reparative process, and the effect of transforming growth factor β is partially mediated by β-catenin. Other cellular processes, such as cell motility and the induction of extracellular matrix contraction, also play important roles during wound repair. We examined the function of β-catenin and its interaction with transforming growth factor β in cell motility and the induction of collagen lattice contraction.

Results

Floating three dimensional collagen lattices seeded with cells expressing conditional null and stabilized β-catenin alleles, showed a modest negative relationship between β-catenin level and the degree of lattice contraction. Transforming growth factor β had a more dramatic effect, positively regulating lattice contraction. In contrast to the situation in the regulation of cell proliferation, this effect of transforming growth factor β was not mediated by β-catenin. Treating wild-type cells or primary human fibroblasts with dickkopf-1, which inhibits β-catenin, or lithium, which stimulates β-catenin produced similar results. Scratch wound assays and Boyden chamber motility studies using these same cells found that β-catenin positively regulated cell motility, while transforming growth factor β had little effect.

Conclusion

This data demonstrates the complexity of the interaction of various signaling pathways in the regulation of cell behavior during wound repair. Cell motility and the induction of collagen lattice contraction are not always coupled, and are likely regulated by different intracellular mechanisms. There is unlikely to be a single signaling pathway that acts as master regulator of fibroblast behavior in wound repair. β-catenin plays dominant role regulating cell motility, while transforming growth factor β plays a dominant role regulating the induction of collagen lattice contraction.