3 years ago

Confocal Rheology Probes the Structure and Mechanics of Collagen through the Sol-Gel Transition

Confocal Rheology Probes the Structure and Mechanics of Collagen through the Sol-Gel Transition
Keewook Paeng, Laura J. Kaufman, Khanh-Hoa Tran-Ba, Daniel J. Lee, Jieling Zhu


Fibrillar type I collagen-based hydrogels are commonly used in tissue engineering and as matrices for biophysical studies. Mechanical and structural properties of these gels are known to be governed by the conditions under which fibrillogenesis occurs, exhibiting variation as a function of protein concentration, temperature, pH, and ionic strength. Deeper understanding of how macroscopic structure affects viscoelastic properties of collagen gels over the course of fibrillogenesis provides fundamental insight into biopolymer gel properties and promises enhanced control over the properties of such gels. Here, we investigate type I collagen fibrillogenesis using confocal rheology—simultaneous confocal reflectance microscopy, confocal fluorescence microscopy, and rheology. The multimodal approach allows direct comparison of how viscoelastic properties track the structural evolution of the gel on fiber and network length scales. Quantitative assessment and comparison of each imaging modality and the simultaneously collected rheological measurements show that the presence of a system-spanning structure occurs at a time similar to rheological determinants of gelation. Although this and some rheological measures are consistent with critical gelation through percolation, additional rheological and structural properties of the gel are found to be inconsistent with this theory. This study clarifies how structure sets viscoelasticity during collagen fibrillogenesis and more broadly highlights the utility of multimodal measurements as critical test-beds for theoretical descriptions of complex systems.

Publisher URL: http://www.cell.com/biophysj/fulltext/S0006-3495(17)30918-9

DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.08.025

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