• positional information;
  • morphogenesis;
  • morphocreator;
  • feedback regulation;
  • type I collagen;
  • gene expression

In order to investigate possible cell positional effects on the gene expression of human dermal fibroblasts, the authors cultured the cells on non-coated polystyrene culture dishes, type I collagen-coated dishes, or collagen gels formed by type I collagen, or suspended them in type I collagen gels and measured collagen synthesis by the cells. The production rate of type I collagen was similar whether cells were cultured on non-coated polystyrene or on type I collagen-coated dishes, but it was suppressed significantly when the cells were placed within the collagen gel matrix. Time-dependent expression of genes for α1(I) and α2(I) collagen chains was measured by Northern blot analysis. A significant increase in mRNA levels for these chains was observed when the cells were cultured for three days on type I collagen-coated dishes or on collagen gels. On the other hand, a significant decrease in the mRNA levels was observed after 2 days and later, when the cells were cultured within type I collagen gel matrix. These results indicate that human dermal fibroblasts recognize their position on or in type I collagen (extracellular matrix) and respond by changing their expression patterns of type I collagen chain genes. The results of the kinetics of gene expression also suggest that upregulation and downregulation of type I collagen genes are controlled by different mechanisms.