Contraction of fibroblast-containing collagen gels: Initial collagen concentration regulates the degree of contraction and cell survival

Y. K. Zhu, T. Umino, X. D. Liu, H. J. Wang, D. J. Romberger, J. R. Spurzem, S. I. Rennard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Remodeling of extracellular matrix involves a number of steps including the recruitment, accumulation, and eventual apoptosis of parenchymal cells as well as the production, organization, and rearrangement of extracellular matrix produced by these cells. The culture of fibroblasts in three-dimensional gels made of type I collagen has been used as a model of tissue contraction which characterizes both wound repair and fibrosis. The current study was designed to determine the effect of initial collagen concentration on the ability of fibroblasts to contract collagen gels and on cell survival. Native type I collagen was extracted from rat tail tendons and used to prepare collagen gels with varying collagen concentrations “0.75-2.0 mg/ml”. Human lung fibroblasts “HFL-1” were cast into the gels and cultured in Dulbecco modified Eagle medium with 0.1% fetal calf serum for 2 wk. The gel size, collagen content, and deoxyribonucleic acid “DNA” content were determined. Gels prepared with an initial concentration of 0.75 mg/ml contracted more rapidly and to a smaller final size than gels prepared from 2 mg/ml initial collagen concentration “final size 7.1 versus 36.4% of initial size. P < 0.01”. There was no significant degradation of the collagen in the gels under either condition. Hence, the dramatically increased contraction of the lower density gels resulted in a higher final density “P < 0.01”. Cell density was estimated from DNA content. In low initial density gels, the final DNA content was significantly less than that in higher initial density gels “0.73 versus 1.88 μg/gel. P < 0.05”. This was accompanied by an increased percentage of apoptotic cells at day 14 “43.3 versus 34.1%. P < 0.05”. If the gels were maintained in the attached state which largely prevents contraction, apoptosis was significantly reduced, suggesting that contraction rather than matrix composition was a requirement for the increased apoptosis. In summary, these findings indicate that the initial matrix composition can lead to differing outcomes during fibroblast-mediated wound contraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-16
Number of pages7
JournalIn Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Apoptosis
  • Gel contraction
  • Human lung fibroblast
  • Type 1 collagen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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