Reactive Oxygen Species and Inflammatory Responses of Macrophages to Substrates with Physiological Stiffness
Chi-Shuo Chen1*, Yung-Chu Chuang1, Hsaio-Ming Chang1
1Department of Biomedical Engineering and Environmental Sciences,, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
* Presenter:Chi-Shuo Chen,
Macrophages play essential roles in innate immunity and their functions can be activated by different signals at pathological sites. Concerning changes in the rigidity of the microenvironment as a disease progresses, the influence of stiffened substrates on macrophage physiology remain elusive. In this study, to evaluate the effect of stiffened substrates on macrophages, we used J774A.1 cells as the macrophage model to investigate its mechano-inflammation responses using engineered polymeric substrates with various physiological rigidities (approximately 0.6 to 100 kPa). Under lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stress, approximately 4-fold higher cytoplasmic reactive oxygen species (ROS) were triggered in cells on the softer substrate, compared with cells on the stiff substrates. The enhanced ROS response was found to be regulated mainly by NADPH oxidase. Moreover, mitochondrial ROS (mtROS), a crucial intracellular ROS source, are produced in response to substrate rigidity. The results showed higher mtROS production when cells were grown on a soft substrate with LPS/ATP stimuli, and the mechano-mtROS alteration was eliminated by Rho kinase inhibitor Y-27632. We suggest that substrate rigidity can coincide with LPS/ATP in regulating the ROS generation of macrophages. As a result of the pivotal role of ROS in regulating inflammation, increased NLRP-3 inflammasome formation and higher NO secretion (an approximately 300% increase) were observed with macrophages grown on soft substrates. Although no substantial genomic distinction was identified in our experiments, based on the phenotypic and functional results, softer substrates prime macrophages toward the pro-inflammatory (M1)-like phenotype. In summary, this study demonstrated the mechano-sensitive inflammatory response of macrophages and the alteration of ROS, as secondary inflammation signals, may contribute to the functional status of macrophages. These findings not only provide an alternative interpretation of the functional transitions of macrophages influenced by substrate rigidity, but may also support the manipulation of the inflammatory responses of macrophages via physical microenvironment modifications.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, ROS, Physical microenvironment, Inflammation