Altered architecture, composition and quality of the extracellular matrix (ECM) are pathological hallmarks of several inflammatory and fibro-proliferative pathological processes such as osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibrosis and cancer. One of the most important components of the ECM is fibronectin. Fibronectin serves as an adhesion molecule anchoring cells to the underlying basement membrane through direct interaction with integrin receptors. Fibronectin hereby modulates the properties of the ECM and affects cellular processes. Quantification of fibronectin remodeling could therefore be used to assess the changes in the ECM that occur during progression of fibro-proliferative pathologies. Ex vivo models are becoming state-of-the-art tools to study ECM remodeling as the cellular composition and the organization of the ECM are preserved. Ex vivo models may therefore be a valuable tool to study the ECM remodeling that occurs during progression of fibro-proliferative pathologies. The aim of this study was to quantify fibronectin remodeling in ex vivo models of cartilage and cancer. A competitive The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) against the C-terminus of fibronectin was developed (FBN-C). The assay was evaluated in relation to specificity, technical performance and as a marker for quantification of fibronectin in cartilage and cancer ex vivo models. The ELISA was specific and technically stable. Cleavage of tumor tissue with MMP-2 released significantly higher levels of FBN-C compared to tissue with buffer only and western blot analysis revealed that FBN-C recognizes both full length and degraded fibronectin. When ex vivo cartilage cultures were stimulated with the anabolic factor TGFβ and catabolic factors TNF-α and OSM, significantly higher levels of FBN-C were found in the conditioned media. Lastly, FBN-C was released from a cancer ex vivo model. In conclusion, we were able to quantify fibronectin remodeling in ex vivo models of cartilage and cancer. Quantification of fibronectin remodeling could be a valuable tool to understand ECM remodeling in ex vivo models of fibro-proliferative pathologies.
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