Synthetic polymeric substrates as potent pro-oxidant versus anti-oxidant regulators of cytoskeletal remodeling and cell apoptosis

Hak Joon Sung, Prafulla Chandra, Matthew D. Treiser, Er Liu, Carmine P. Iovine, Prabhas V. Moghe, Joachim Kohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The role of reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated cell signal transduction pathways emanating from engineered cell substrates remains unclear. To elucidate the role, polymers derived from the amino acid L-tyrosine were used as synthetic matrix substrates. Variations in their chemical properties were created by co-polymerizing hydrophobic L-tyrosine derivatives with uncharged hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG, Mw = 1,000 Da), and negatively charged desaminotyrosyl-tyrosine (DT). These substrates were characterized for their intrinsic ability to generate ROS, as well as their ability to elicit Saos-2 cell responses in terms of intracellular ROS production, actin remodeling, and apoptosis. PEG-containing substrates induced both exogenous and intracellular ROS production, whereas the charged substrates reduced production of both types, indicating a coupling of exogenous ROS generation and intracellular ROS production. Furthermore, PEG-mediated ROS induction caused nuclear translocation of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and an increase in caspase-3 activity, confirming a link with apoptosis. PEG-rich pro-oxidant substrates caused cytoskeletal actin remodeling through β-actin cleavage by caspase-3 into fractins. The fractins co-localized to the mitochondria and reduced the mitochondrial membrane potential. The remnant cytosolic β-actin was polymerized and condensed, events consistent with apoptotic cell shrinkage. The cytoskeletal remodeling was integral to the further augmentation of intracellular ROS production. Conversely, the anti-oxidant DT-containing charged substrates suppressed the entire cascade of apoptotic progression. We demonstrate that ROS activity serves an important role in "outside-in" signaling for cells grown on substrates: the ROS activity couples exogenous stress, driven by substrate composition, to changes in intracellular signaling. This signaling causes cell apoptosis, which is mediated by actin remodeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)549-557
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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