Chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells on glycosaminoglycan-mimetic peptide nanofibers
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are important extracellular matrix components of cartilage tissue and provide biological signals to stem cells and chondrocytes for development and functional regeneration of cartilage. Among their many functions, particularly sulfated glycosaminoglycans bind to growth factors and enhance their functionality through enabling growth factor-receptor interactions. Growth factor binding ability of the native sulfated glycosaminoglycans can be incorporated into the synthetic scaffold matrix through functionalization with specific chemical moieties. In this study, we used peptide amphiphile nanofibers functionalized with the chemical groups of native glycosaminoglycan molecules such as sulfonate, carboxylate and hydroxyl to induce the chondrogenic differentiation of rat mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The MSCs cultured on GAG-mimetic peptide nanofibers formed cartilage-like nodules and deposited cartilage-specific matrix components by day 7, suggesting that the GAG-mimetic peptide nanofibers effectively facilitated their commitment into the chondrogenic lineage. Interestingly, the chondrogenic differentiation degree was manipulated with the sulfonation degree of the nanofiber system. The GAG-mimetic peptide nanofibers network presented here serve as a tailorable bioactive and bioinductive platform for stem-cell-based cartilage regeneration studies.