The spatial boundary condition (SBC) arising from the surrounding microenvironment imposes specific geometry and spatial constraints that affect organogenesis and tissue homeostasis. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) sensitively respond to alterations of mechanical cues generated from the SBC. However, mechanical cues provided by a three-dimensional (3D) environment are deprived in a reductionist 2D culture system. This study investigates how SBC affects osteogenic differentiation of MSCs using 3D scaffolds with monodispersed pores and homogenous spherical geometries. MSCs cultured under SBCs with diameters of 100 and 150 μm possessed the greatest capability of osteogenic differentiation. This phenomenon was strongly correlated with MSC morphology, organization of actin cytoskeleton, and distribution of focal adhesion involving α2 and α5 integrins. Further silencing either α2 or α5 integrin significantly reduced the above mentioned mechanosensitivity, indicating that the α2 and α5 integrins as mechano-sensitive molecules mediate MSCs' ability to provide enhanced osteogenic differentiation in response to different spherical SBCs. Taken together, the findings provide new insights regarding how MSCs respond to mechanical cues from the surrounding microenvironment in a spherical SBC, and such biophysical stimuli should be taken into consideration in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in conjunction with biochemical cues.
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