Extracellular matrix dynamics: tracking in biological systems and their implications.

30 May 2022
Hu M, Ling Z, Ren X

The extracellular matrix (ECM) constitutes the main acellular microenvironment of cells in almost all tissues and organs. The ECM not only provides mechanical support, but also mediates numerous biochemical interactions to guide cell survival, proliferation, differentiation, and migration. Thus, better understanding the everchanging temporal and spatial shifts in ECM composition and structure - the ECM dynamics - will provide fundamental insight regarding extracellular regulation of tissue homeostasis and how tissue states transition from one to another during diverse pathophysiological processes. This review outlines the mechanisms mediating ECM-cell interactions and highlights how changes in the ECM modulate tissue development and disease progression, using the lung as the primary model organ. We then discuss existing methodologies for revealing ECM compositional dynamics, with a particular focus on tracking newly synthesized ECM proteins. Finally, we discuss the ramifications ECM dynamics have on tissue engineering and how to implement spatial and temporal specific extracellular microenvironments into bioengineered tissues. Overall, this review communicates the current capabilities for studying native ECM dynamics and delineates new research directions in discovering and implementing ECM dynamics to push the frontier forward.