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Keywords:

  • fibronectin;
  • polyethylene glycol;
  • proteolysis;
  • adhesion;
  • spreading;
  • migration;
  • focal adhesion;
  • fibrillogenesis;
  • chymotrypsin;
  • neutrophil elastase

Delayed wound healing in many chronic wounds has been linked to the degradation of fibronectin (FN) by abnormally high protease levels. We sought to develop a proteolytically stable and functionally active form of FN. For this purpose, we conjugated 3.35 kDa polyethylene glycol diacrylate (PEGDA) to human plasma fibronectin (HPFN). Conjugation of PEGDA to HPFN or HPFN PEGylation was characterized by an increase of approximately 16 kDa in the average molecular weight of PEGylated HPFN compared to native HPFN in SDS-PAGE gels. PEGylated HPFN was more resistant to α chymotrypsin or neutrophil elastase digestion than native HPFN: after 30 min incubation with α chymotrypsin, 56 and 90% of native and PEGylated HPFN respectively remained intact. PEGylated HPFN and native HPFN supported NIH 3T3 mouse fibroblast adhesion and spreading, migration and focal adhesion formation in a similar manner. Fluorescence microscopy showed that both native and PEGylated HPFN in the culture media were assembled into extracellular matrix (ECM) fibrils. Interestingly, when coated on surfaces, native but not PEGylated HPFN was assembled into the ECM of fibroblasts. The proteolytically stable PEGylated HPFN developed herein could be used to replenish FN levels in the chronic wound bed and promote tissue repair. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29: 493–504, 2013